A gift of hope for our world

A critical meeting for the future of our planet and our children is happening in Glasgow right now. COP26, the 26th Conference of the Parties, is a meeting of countries discussing commitments to cut global greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the planet’s warming by another 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We are at a critical moment, as natural disasters caused by climate change are rapidly escalating. On the current trajectory, climate change is expected to raise temperatures in South Africa by two to three degrees Celsius in the next 30 years. Predicted intense heat waves and extreme droughts will impact food and water security. South Africa is one of the most coal-dependent countries globally, making us the 14th highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.

So far, at least two very significant decisions have been made at COP26, which give reasons for some hope. More than 100 world leaders have committed to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. And a commitment that the US, UK, France, Germany and the European Union will help fund South Africa’s move away from coal to renewable energy – a significant 8.5 billion dollar partnership. This could pave the way for similar funding to be rolled out to other developing countries that use heavily polluting fuel sources.

It is encouraging that finally, recognition is growing that globally we need to work together to help one another if we do not want climate disaster. The global North, historically the largest contributor to global warming, is now reaching out to assist poorer nations. Finally, if belatedly, it seems that the world may be waking up to the urgency of the situation facing us.

Many responses to this announcement on local social media are saying that we have coal in abundance, so why should we not use it for our financial interests? However, we simply cannot afford to think selfishly because the consequences for our survival and the survival of the planet are drastic and not far off. And it is the poorest who will be most impacted. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis said that: “Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.” 

What is critical now is that the money will be used for what it is intended. Given our dismal track record of corruption and misuse of funds, how do we ensure transparency and accountability?

As Christians, we have a God-given vocation to care for the earth. We need to come together to ask funders to put in place iron-clad checks and balances to ensure that corruption does not undo the gift of hope this opportunity can bring for us, our children and our planet.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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