We arrived in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, for this year’s United Nations climate negotiations after two days of travel, and we were immediately in the midst of global community: friends from around the world, diplomats and policy experts, and the people of the local community hosting the meeting, which in this case is a small beach community with an uncanny resemblance to Galveston (including a life-size chess game).
The climate negotiations, known as the Conference of the Parties or COP, are where the world meets to talk about life-and-death policy and finance. This year, the global family meeting is pretty tense: already there’s been awkwardness between Ukraine and Russia, and the pressure around loss and damage is high. The head of the Climate Action Network started her speech “This has been a year of unbelievable devastation, following two years of unbelievable devastation.”
The mechanics of loss and damage finance are unfamiliar to most residents of developed countries, but the emotions are painfully familiar: anger over betrayal; the heartbreak of broken promises; tears and recriminations; and demands for the guilty to pay. Thirty years of global climate negotiations have left a trail of unfulfilled pledges, and now climate leaders from the global South say, “Climate concern that is felt abstractly for you in the global North, is suffered daily, concretely in Africa.”
On the first day of the COP, we attended an interfaith dialogue in the spirit of Talanoa, where we discussed the growing role of faith communities in advancing climate justice. Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California reminded us that the Beloved Community is not a future wish, but a present reality if we live into it. As another speaker said, “The question for this COP is not what we should do, but how we should be.”