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OPINION - Climate justice

Molly Clark tells us why she and other young people campaign for fair climate finance, and why we should all be involved.

Read time: 3 minutes and 46 seconds

Climate justice means global solidarity. It means amplifying the voices of those most affected by the climate crisis, in the world’s poorest communities and in developing countries, and following their calls to action. In other words, it means living out one of Jesus’ most important teachings: love your neighbour. As the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates, our neighbours are not only those we know, those in our own social groups. Rather, the climate crisis means that it is essential for Christians to love their global neighbours, and to show that love through personal and political action.

I am a member of the Young Christian Climate Network, a group of 18-30 year old Christians in the UK, from across denominations, seeking to follow Jesus in the pursuit of climate justice. In 2021, we organised a Relay pilgrimage to COP26, open to people of all ages and of all faiths and none. The route spanned from Cornwall, where the G7 ministers met in June, all the way up to Glasgow, the venue for the international climate conference COP26 in November. We walked as an act of faith, hope, and love, determined to rise to the moment in a crucial year when big decisions about the climate were being made on our doorstep. In the cities we passed through, we were joined by a model boat, the Pilgrim, whose sails were made up of fabrics and photos sent to us by Christian communities in climate-vulnerable nations across the world.

Our world needs to work together to fight climate change; we need to tackle our divisions, not etch them in even further.

Our political focus was on fair climate finance: a topic coming to crisis point at COP26, but always relevant in these times of climate injustice. In 2009, wealthy developed nations promised to mobilise a joint £100bn per year by 2020 for UN climate funds. The intention was for developing nations – often the worst victims of financially devastating climate impacts like extreme weather, rising sea levels, natural disasters, and food insecurity – to use this money for adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development. But the world’s richest countries did not keep their promise. In 2021, they were still falling short of the £100bn. This money needs to be on the table – and ideally exceeded – at COP26. Our world needs to work together to fight climate change; we need to tackle our divisions, not etch them in even further.

The desperate need for fair climate finance, which has been articulated in a report signed by a hundred developing nations (representing more than half the world’s countries), is a reflection of terrible injustice and inequality. The world’s wealth is unevenly distributed, both between and within nations. Our planet’s smallest polluters are often those who are paying the price, metaphorically and literally, for climate change. For many nations, the harm caused by the climate crisis is exacerbating existing financial distress: countries already in debt (often in debt to wealthy nations like the UK) are being pushed further in by the costs of climate damage. Debt cancellation featured in the Relay’s political demands, alongside loss and damage financing, UK aid budget restoration, and the big question of the £100bn. Unfortunately, these are issues that are likely to stay extremely relevant even after COP26 is over: those of us who are able to do so need to keep our politicians accountable for any promises they make, and need to push for greater ambition in the journey towards a greener and fairer planet.

God wants us to steward and care for creation. Genesis describes a human race bidden to be fruitful and replenish the earth. Instead, we see big industries exploiting the land and exploiting people – indigenous communities and the poorest of the Global South are feeling the brunt of this exploitation. Jesus preached a radical Gospel of equality, decrying the gulfs between rich and poor. We at the Young Christian Climate Network, along with many people of faith, feel the spiritual mandate to pursue justice. And though we live in a terrifying time, our faith also gives us hope that together, as a whole world, we will prevail against this crisis.

1. Power Shift Africa, ACT2025 Consortium, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities et al., ‘COP26: Delivering the Paris Agreement: A Five-Point Plan for Solidarity, Fairness and Prosperity’ (July 2021), p. 14.

2. Ibid.

3. Matt McGrath, ‘Climate Change: “No More Excuses” at COP26 Climate Summit – Poor Nations’, BBC News (July 2021).

Photograph courtesy of Naomi Woddis.