In this week’s email:

  • US Election Prayers
  • Marrakech Climate Talks
  • In Brief: Yemen, Burundi/DRC/Rwanda, Syria

He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” These words from the Psalmist in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings remind us that while we are called to work within the framework of human institutions, it is in God that ultimate power – and ultimate justice and hope – reside.

US Election Prayers

There’s no need to set out the details of the US elections this Tuesday: information about them is available everywhere one turns.  But we thought it might be helpful to offer some  formal prayers. We particularly found helpful this prayer from the Sanctuary Centre and offer, below, a selection of prayers prepared in the US:

Marrakech Climate Talks

Following years of stalemate, the push for global climate action is moving forward rapidly. Three days after the Paris Agreement comes into force, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet in Marrakech, Morocco for its 22nd annual conference. The meeting, which goes from 7 to 18 November, will include a high-level section on the 15th, when Heads of State and Government will celebrate the Paris Agreement’s entry into force. It will also incorporate the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1), which takes place from the 15th to the 18th.

After the drama of last year’s negotiations, this conference is expected to be focused on the nitty gritty of implementation. The Moroccan hosts of COP22 have emphasised that they “want this Conference of the Parties to be action-oriented” and are focusing on four priorities: “the actual implementation of national contributions; the mobilization of funds; the strengthening of adaptation measures and technological development”. King Mohammed VI of Morocco also states his ambition that his kingdom “will show its solidarity with those who are most vulnerable or threatened by climate change. Throughout its presidency, Morocco will devote special attention to Island States, to Africa and, more generally, to all developing countries”.

Part of the emphasis, as at Paris, will be on ways in which state and non-state actors – such as businesses, cities and NGOs – can collaborate. Following on from the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, French diplomat Laurent Tubiana and her Moroccan counterpart Hakima El Haité have been working to present a Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) programme. This programme will include a series of themed days and discussions on areas including agriculture and food security, cities, energy, forests, business, oceans, transport, water and gender. It is designed to make connections between what non-state actors and governments are doing to implement the Paris Agreement, to highlight and support non-state initiatives, to help develop new initiatives, to increase transparency, and to provide guidance on and increase access to Technical Expert Meetings. The initiative is intended to culminate in the presentation of a Global Climate Action Roadmap and Call to Action to accelerate climate action at a high level event on November 17th.

For state actors, CMA 1 is where the detail of implementing the Paris Agreement will begin to be mapped out. The conference agenda includes deciding modalities, procedures and guidelines for key aspects of the Paris Agreement such as the transparency regime, how information about National Determined Contributions (countries’ climate action plans) will be shared, and the processes to measure progress and to raise ambition.

These are important issues: the requirements of transparency around national activities have long been a source of contention, with some countries demanding greater accountability and others concerned about the burden of administration on poor countries or opposing what they portray as unwarranted intrusion into their own processes.  Beginning to think through the processes for the ‘global stocktakes’, part of the ‘ratchet’ mechanism for raising ambition over time, will also be crucial: a recent UN Environment Programme report has said that unless countries raise their ambition before 2020, there is little or no chance that the 1.5 degree target can be met.

But the CMA 1 organisers face a number of tricky questions. For one thing, who can take decisions? According to the Q and A paper on the legal and procedural issues for the conference, only Parties which have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval of the Paris Agreement at least 30 days in advance of CMA 1 can take part in decision-making. Those that have not – and the UK is among them – may only participate and make interventions as observers. This raises issue about buy-in to the decisions from other countries. Morocco’s environment minister Hakima El Haite said “We consider that no Party should be disadvantaged or excluded from the collective development of the rulebook of the Paris Agreement simply because it is still in the process of joining the Agreement” How will the different positions be reconciled?

In addition, the Paris Agreement stipulates a broad work programme to be undertaken by an Ad Hoc Working Group before the CMA can be fully operational. In July the UN published a work programme for the tasks required to take the Paris Agreement forward, twenty-four of which need to be carried out before it can function. But while the Paris Agreement envisaged that the working group would have several years for these tasks, the rapid entry into force means that they won’t be completed in time for the CMA’s first meeting.

How to deal with these issues? Some commentators have suggested that CMA 1 could be opened and immediately suspended. We will have to wait and see.

But whatever happens, clearly, the climate negotiations in Marrakech will, as in Paris, be challenging and complex, requiring ambition, determination and the best from participants. They also call us to prayer – both to intercede for the conference itself and to look once again at our own response to the challenge of climate change. The following reflection from Bishop Nick Holtam, the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, might help shape our prayers

“Ban Ki Moon said the Paris summit was the biggest and most complex meeting of which he has ever been part. That is quite a statement from the UN Secretary General. There were 12,000 participants as well as 48,000 supporters and observers. 195 countries signed the first legally binding global climate agreement. The agreement was very hard won and it is very important because it sets the framework by which the world can move to being carbon neutral by the end of the century. It now needs to be implemented. A key part of the agreed process is regular review because as things stand we are not going to achieve the 2 degree C limit that was agreed in Paris and is widely thought could be a tipping point into massive climate change. There are big technical issues to be addressed but there is also a fundamental spiritual and moral issue. Do we act according to what we say, have agreed and believe to be the case? That is a test for us as Christians, as it is for all of us who care for what the Pope has called ‘Our Common Home’.” 
Please pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the rapid advances in climate diplomacy over the past year
  • for wisdom for all who have leadership roles at the forthcoming Marrakech talks
  • that all who will participate in the Marrakech conference will genuinely work for the common good
  • that the negotiations will help to bring the world’s countries closer to meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree target “to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”
  • that we as churches and individuals may be encouraged by the advances of the past year and may recommit ourselves to personal and corporate climate action

Action Point: If you haven’t already changed to a green energy supplier, why not take advantage of the Big British Switch programme to do so now?

In Brief: Yemen, Burundi/DRC/Rwanda, Syria

  • Please continue to pray for those suffering as a result of the conflict in Yemen and for proper investigation of the actions of the Saudi-led coalition. This article gives background that may be useful for prayer.
  • This week the World Council of Churches cycle of prayer focuses on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The first two countries, in particular, have featured in recent emails, as the political situations – and the situations of the people – in both are of grave concern. Please do consider using the WCC resources to pray for all three countries this week.
  • Please continue to pray for the people trapped in Aleppo as they await Russia’s offensive against the eastern part of the city. Pray for comfort and safety for those who have suffered so much.

Featured Image: October 22: Election, taken by Shannon, used under Creative Commons License