Lima’s call for Climate Action
Fr. Seán McDonagh, SSC
At 2 am on Sunday, December 14, 2014, after 36 hours of continuous negotiations, delegates from 191 countries signed off on the agreement committing every country in the world to reducing the fossil fuel emissions that cause global warming. The headlines on La República on Monday, December 15th 2014, Acuerdo ‘tibio’ para salvar el planetá (A lukewarm agreement to save the planet) captured what most people felt about the document which is now called the Lima Call for Climate Action. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the Peruvian environment minister who brokered the deal said that “as a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties.” Non-government organizations were very critical of the text. According to Jagoda Munic, the chair of Friends of the Earth International, “the text is desperately lacking in ambition, leadership, justice and solidarity for the people worst hit by the climate crisis.”
Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland said that the Lima agreement had managed to keep the multilateral UN process alive, but did not “give confidence that the world is ready to adopt an equitable and ambitious, legally binding climate agreement in Paris next year”.
Because the Lima Conference failed to address many thorny issues in relation to climate change, there will be huge pressure on the French negotiating team to get the negotiations back on track if there is going to be an agreement in Paris in 2015. The Lima document broke with all previous COPs where the burden of reducing greenhouse gases was placed squarely on the shoulders of rich countries which historically have been emitting carbon dioxide since the beginning of the industrial revolution. In Lima poor countries felt that rich countries were attempting to move the burden of reducing carbon dioxide emissions on to their shoulders. Under the plan, countries are due to come forward by March 2015 with their proposed emissions reductions targets. The United Nations will then scrutinise the pledges to see whether taken together they are large enough to limit global warming to 2C rise. Given the voluntary nature of what are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), the possibility of this happening would be nothing short of miraculous. Furthermore, the Lima text no longer makes it mandatory for countries to provide detailed information about their prospect reductions targets.
Naturally, rich countries were pleased. The Guardian quoted Britain’s Energy and Climate Change secretary, Ed. Davey as saying, “I think for the first time ever the world can contemplate a global deal applicable to all and Lima has helped that process.”
Finance was also a problem in Lima. The Lima Call to Climate Action, “urges developed country Parties to provide and mobilize enhanced financial support to developing country Parties for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions, especially to Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change; and recognizes complementary support by other Parties.” But the document does not offer any clearly defined pathway to achieve this goal.
For this reason, wealthy countries were accused of not living up to promises made to mobilize serious money to help poor countries fight climate change, The Green Climate Fund (GFC) has only raised $10 billion, when it is generally recognised that $100 per annum will be necessary in the period after 2020.
The Warsaw International Mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ survived in the agreed text despite the opposition of the US delegation. This was introduced at COP 19 in Warsaw in 2013 after news that Typhoon Haiyan had caused enormous damage in the Philippines, At least 7,000 people were killed or drowned and unbelievable damage was caused to property and infrastructure such as road, bridge and electrical power lines by what was considered the most powerful storm in history. There was very little agreement on the amounts of money needed for Adaptation to climate change. Adaptation is a central pillar in the UNFCCC process. Downplaying it is very worrying.
The agreement in Paris in 2015 will need to ensure that global temperature increase stays at below 2o C. in comparison to preindustrial levels. To do this it will be necessary to phase-out all greenhouse gases as early as possible in the second part of this century. To reduce vulnerability of the poor, and build resilience of communities to climate change impacts, through collective actions which must apply to all countries based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Although a low-carbon and climate resilient economy is beneficial, poor countries will need support in order to be able to make the shift. The agreement must include a package of support which will involve finance, technology and capacity building which is reviewed every five years. Naturally, any agreement should have robust accountability and transparency so that governments, civil society and industry will be able to trust that the transition to a low-carbon economy is actually happening. There is a lot of work to do before Paris 2015,
Interesting here is that modern liberalism’s belief in the unbridgeable gulf between “is” and “ought”, in this instance concedes that the dualism between “is” and “ought” be abandoned. In recent decades modern liberalism has postulated the self as a divine power that legislates its own moral universe. The self defines the nature “of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.” (Justice Kennedy, Planned Parenthood v Casey).
In one sense nature is an aggregate of objective data linked together in terms of cause and effect. But modern liberalism asserts that no ethical indication of any kind can be derived from human or physical nature. This dominant positivist reason excludes ethics and religion and consigns them to the subjective field as extraneous to the perceived reality of the world. Unless an issue bites close to home then the gulf between “ought” and “is” tends to remain.
Conversely, at the Bundestag, Benedict XVI said: “we must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet … there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”
Pope Francis made the same point in Strasburg. Having made a plea for environmental stewardship, he went on to “emphasize” (his word) that “along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of a human ecology which consists in respect for the person.”
What is right and may be given the force of law is in no way simply self-evident today. A modern mode of Catholicism that accommodates itself to contemporary culture contributes to this. A modern Christian spirituality whose religious convictions have been inwardly destabilised, shaped by a lurking uncertainty, reinforces the lack of confidence in the Paris conference outlined in the article.
Pope Benedict asked: “Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spiritus?” The latter guides humanity as it draws upon God’s raw materials to refashion into our own products; guides us as to what is right and be given the force of law. Catholic priests should evangelise accordingly in truth, not only in what to believe, but in how to believe.
Con @1, asking priests to tell us what to believe is simply too much at this stage. I have a feeling that your everyday priest has a huge issue with translating the scripture to our everyday, modern situations. I’m not sure why this exists because our last two Popes have been very clear where they stand on modern issues that affect humanity. It’s as if the everyday priest sees this as more of a public relations strategy rather than a direct order or something to put on his “to talk about” list.
Catholicism must accommodate itself to contemporary culture. This doesn’t mean rewriting the ten commandments by any means. It means that religion must rely on people who are both modern and imaginative in their way of disseminating its overall message. Now, as for people uniting for a common cause (albeit religious or environmental), this happens best when the factors that divide these groups are eliminated. A modern mode of Catholicism must first eliminate these dividers before it can achieve anything else. I think we can all agree that the ten commandments unite people with its simplistic common sense yet Canon Law possibly divides many of us with its complexity and unnatural stipulations. Priests and their unending commitment to helping the sick, poor and elderly unite people, where the Vatican hierarchy and its rather secretive society divides us. Likewise we are united by our knowledge of the immediate need to clean up the environment but the unknown, future economic consequences of this commitment divide us.
As they say, the devil is in the details, right? I’d be willing to sacrifice it all if it meant the sins of the oppressors were forgiven and balance could be restored. But we all know that today, one person doesn’t make the difference. Yet one issue does make all the difference. If you can start at the top and fix the central issue, the others will follow suit. When our system of production becomes mainly resource based (due to overwhelming environmental factors) and not simply capitalistic, money and wealth and disparity and all their negative aspects become secondary and health and the environment become paramount.
The reality of this issue is that it is plainly a legal battle that must take place and be initiated by someone. A world wide class action lawsuit would work. No judge in history would rule in favour of the oppressors. If it’s not a battle waged within a courtroom, I do believe it will get rather ugly in the streets as we can currently see. This is human nature; kicking and clawing our way back to balance but today against a machination that knows no margin. How long will this go on and how far will it take us all? If the “powers that be” don’t wish to entertain this in a courtroom in a civilized fashion, then may God have mercy on their souls for they know not what they do. I’m sure Pope Francis would have some ideas concerning an environmentally based lawsuit against multinational corporations. Heck, the Vatican may even fund it, no? He’s certainly the man for the job. But really, if he weren’t ready to pick a battle that big, why would he have ever called himself Francis? If we as Christians don’t put this on his agenda, who will?
We can talk at length about the machinations of mind of powerful people in the world. Solutions to the problems they cause arise haphazardly for reasons you mention.
In relation to human and physical ecology it is reasonable to expect a catholic to view it from a catholic perspective.
A priest who was a student in Rome frequently got lost in the astonishingly winding and crooked streets that were in the ancient quarter where he lived. Yet when he asked a local Roman for directions, the answer was invariably: “Va sempre diritto.” (Keep going straight ahead.) which was not very helpful. But the said priest maintains that that is what Our Lord says each day of our lives. The difference is that he does not point the way, he IS the way. He does not point a finger saying, “Keep going straight ahead.” He says to all, as he said to the apostles, “Follow me.”
The catholic priest by virtue of his calling and reception of the sacrament of Holy Orders is equipped to guide people in this way under the guidance of Church teaching.
In relation to ecology recall the opening lines of St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word…and all things were made through the Word.” The universal intelligibility of nature is a function of its being brought into existence by an intelligent Creator. The young Joseph Ratzinger stated the relationship as follows: the “objective mind” discoverable in finite reality is the consequence of the “subjective mind” that thought it into reality.
Walter Percy quotes these lines from Nietzsche: “We are unknown, we knowers, to ourselves…for each of us holds good to all eternity the motto, “Each is the farthest away from himself”–as far as ourselves are concerned we are not knowers.”
We know ourselves and our responsibilities best to the extent we know Christ. No one ever gets lost by following Him. That is an incontestable fact, and the saints prove it. For a Catholic the greatest of saints, the Mother of Jesus, is the cause of our joy, Causae Nostrae Laetitiae, because she directs us to the One who shows the way to Heaven: “Do whatever my son tells you to do” (John 2:5). Through the Church He leads us up no blind alleys.
The conferences in Lima and Paris can make progress through human reason. They would benefit greatly from the adoption world wide by Catholics of Catholic insights, which it is the privilege of priests, especially those who focus on ecology, to teach in terms of what and how.
#3 “The catholic priest by virtue of his calling and reception of the sacrament of Holy Orders is equipped to guide people in this way under the guidance of Church teaching.”
Sorry, Con – this comes across as idealised nonsense to someone with seven decades of experience of ‘the catholic priest’.
A very small minority of the Catholic clergy I have known have been capable of spiritual guidance – by virtue of their understanding of what may be called the universal spiritual journey and the full richness of ‘church teaching’.
I have also encountered (through others) the likes of Fr Brendan Smyth, also an enthusiast for what he supposed ‘church teaching’ to be – but a despicable monster capable of destroying the well-being of hundreds of people and of persuading them that God must be a monster too.
And spanning the distance between those extremes my experience is of mostly very ordinary people doing their best but very ill-equipped for the spiritual guidance of anyone – because they had apparently never been taught that there is such a thing as the universal spiritual journey, or trained to recognise its way-points. (For example, the deep depression that culminates the journey of consumerist desire.)
Have you forgotten that when I once asked on this site why so few ACP members participated in theological discussion here (e.g. on the issue of Atonement) the only priest to respond replied as follows: “the problem is the phobia of so many clergy about studying theology or preparing their sermons in a serious way”. http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2014/02/atonement-why-do-irish-clergy-avoid-this-issue/
Not a single ACP member objected to that!
Where does that phobia come from? My guess is that a lot of it has to do with alienation from a narrow CDF-defined and sexually-fixated version of ‘church teaching’, combined with a well-trained fear of questioning it – especially in a form that might be quoted back, out of context, by the very same CDF.
As to those younger priests who are now so enthusiastic for the Latin Mass , lace and the CDF – words totally fail. They may never really get the reason that people like Augustine, Francis of Assisi and Thomas Merton were so joyful or so wise in their faith: they had travelled first the path of egotism and learned to understand it from the perspective of an enlightenment that no course of study, and no seminary, can deliver. When our seminaries have taught their students that they must expect life to teach them ‘the fullness of the faith’ – and given them a taste for lifelong formation rather than an inclination to read nothing at all – they will be working. They haven’t been working for decades – and the CDF has a lot to do with that.
Firstly Sean, let me wish you and yours a happy Christmas.
Secondly we are relying on the forbearance of the priests who own this website to talk about them.
“The catholic priest by virtue of his calling and reception of the sacrament of Holy Orders is equipped [with the grace] to guide people in this way under the guidance of Church teaching.”
Notice the amendment. This is true by definition. Availing of graces is a perennial problem.
Your experience: “A very small minority of the Catholic clergy I have known have been capable of spiritual guidance – by virtue of their understanding of what may be called the universal spiritual journey and the full richness of ‘church teaching’.”
You benefitted from these. Be grateful. These were people sent to you. Such priests are sent to us all, even to priests. It’s up to ourselves to grow these gifts in our spiritual lives thenceforth.
There is a distinction between spiritual guidance and what I had in mind – general guidance.
I concluded some years ago that I have the same duty to listen to a homily at Mass as I do to listen to the readings. The temptation is always to pronounce on “what he should have said is …” In my geographical area which includes a city, there are a few priests whom I personally dislike. The struggle to obey the rule above normally results in a message to be more charitable in one’s thoughts.
Many priests have become aware of useful messages received in a homily that they never consciously communicated. There is always guidance in a homily, not derived from Fr Jonny as Jonny, but through Jonny’s priesthood, which sometimes Jonny thinks is less important than his own obsessions. He plays down his priesthood accordingly, rendering Jonny relatively redundant evangelisation-wise.
As once involved in personnel training, my boss expected me to spend a number of hours preparing for each hour of a proposed conference. This is the privilege a priest homilist enjoys.
Jonny can still hear my confessions, and celebrate Mass for me. For this I am grateful. But I go elsewhere for my guidance, and pray for Jonny.
Priests are wary of engaging in theological discussion for a number of reasons. One of these is the lack of value perceived in it by laity, or by other priests. Another arises from their experience that such discussion is perceived by some laity as a chance to challenge or refute Church teaching.
Some Priests need encouragement from laity to change from preaching what they perceive the punters will bear to what they know evangelisation requires. I have seen this encouragement bear fruit. The nature of the encouragement required is often subtle. This is one area where laity can take a lead and help promote the type of theological activity you desire.
#3 above was written in the context of an article on environmental preservation by a priest. If the current postulated threats are true, the Church has insights to offer which in the case of most laity come through the priest.
In this regard I often think of James Lovelock’s now less fashionable gaia hypothesis – man may render the world less habitable for himself but the earth will adjust to preserve itself over time. (roughly adapted!) The environmental question becomes at core a people question – “what must we, the current inhabitants sacrifice to protect future inhabitants?” The thought of Christian sacrificial love immediately suggests itself, a valuable contribution to the political Lima et al thought processes enabling them to become more feasible, and at the same time drawing attention to Christ as author of such effective processes. All priests can participate in creating awareness of this Catholic distinction.
I personally do not find the CDF version of church teaching narrow or sexually-fixated. We differ on that. In my reading, and in my watching of a more global situation on television I find many priests and religious guided where necessary by the CDF, operating marvellous ministries that exhibit among other things increases in vocations.
This discussion is what I find rather maddening about bureaucracy in general. There is always a road to take but so few who wish to take a true stand and point the direction. We’ll let that be the choice of the masses and we’ll allow them to rely on the market (mass perception) to guide them. David Suzuki, a rather well known Canadian media personality and activist for the environment spoke to my high school’s graduating class in 1991. He essentially told us that we were the last hope. If a climate crisis solution was not officially put in action and solved within our lifetimes, there would be certain cataclysm in the not so distant future. He was very clear in what needed to be done, and since this time, as predicted the necessary technology has come forward that would allow for a seamless transition. The only “seam” that would need a bit more ironing out would be for the elitists. They have the most to lose in all this. Oil and its byproducts have made their way into our everyday lives : from shampoo to medicines, asphalt, plastics, synthetic fabrics to the very food we eat, the ever-reaching tentacles of this monster represent the most powerful companies in the world. This transition, which needs to be urgently secured is stagnating and the “powers that be” are talking a talk but not one is really walking in any direction (or running for that matter). True guidance can’t be like an airbag in a car that deploys in the wake of an accident. It is a security feature that prevents us from getting into that accident to begin with. We as humans don’t necessarily need our hands held to come up with the solutions to these problems. What we need are our spiritual leaders to accurately pinpoint the aggressors and protectors and work tirelessly to bypass them. 100 years ago when the earth was relatively new to industrialization, I’m sure recruitment was important for priests. Sinning had more defined and simplistic parameters and guidance was certainly more concrete. Now, the world is much more complex and sinning has taken on a new disguise by way of an emerging, abstract, bureaucratic culture which most have a hard time understanding, including myself. As the Pope blasts this bureaucracy within the Vatican, we herald it as an emerging culture of elitism. It’s hard enough to put a finger on it but it is clear that a shift towards a resource based society has these hedonists running scared. The chaos that is to be created out of their fear has everyone worried yet this is where we see disaster and capitalism work hand in hand. As it was proven in 1st Century Roman history, those who can create and manipulate the disaster can control the masses or better yet the perception of said masses. This empire was never really eliminated by Christ but obviously was in his sights during his lifetime. This hedonistic empire still rages to this day and awaits His timely return.
# 5 Your good wishes at Christmas were greatly appreciated, Con – and are reciprocated to you for the rest of this end-of-year season.
I agree wholeheartedly that the Christian response to the environmental crisis will involve ‘sacrifice’. But aren’t we facing another ‘clerical reticence’ problem here – an apparent phobia in relation to explaining how Christian sacrifice removes from that word ‘sacrifice’ all taint – especially the taint of violence. I have never heard an officiating priest go anywhere near this issue – even when dealing with the Abraham/Isaac readings. There is instead a palpable discomfort and sheering away at that point.
You must be aware of the literature that scapegoats Christianity with, for example, the reciprocal sacrificial violence of Word War I. A balanced account will point out that some Christians have understood ‘sacrifice’ to require a refusal of the option of violence against another (e.g. Allen J. Frantzen’s ‘Bloody Good’). However even Frantzen documented that for many other Christians the wounds of Christ became indistinguishable from those suffered by soldiers in battle, and could even for some justify a culture of revenge. Was the reticence of Christendom on this issue of sacrifice (i.e. the reticence of clergies representing churches linked with the state) indeed a factor in the Christian fratricide of so many past wars, including World War I?
Isn’t there now a very serious need to ‘go there’ – for example, in deciding how the Irish 1916 Rising should be viewed by the church in these ecumenical times – as well as in seeking a thoroughly Christian response to the environmental issue? What government is yet willing to tell its people that even the sacrifice of ‘economic growth’ and ‘higher living standards’ may be necessary?
At Christmas time Christian parents of slender means are very familiar with the concept of unalloyed sacrifice (i.e. sacrifice that is free of all taint of self-interest) . It’s part of that ‘dying to the self’ that Jesus advocated. So there would be no problem at all in applying the same principle to a rejection of the consumerism and endless capitalistic competition that do so much to fuel the environmental threat.
Except that our clergy just won’t ‘go there’! I have raised this issue here before also, with scant response. For me we are speaking about that sphere of sacrifice that is proper to the common priesthood of all the baptised – but where are the clergy who have been taught to dwell on that theme, and who can see any point in doing so?
Hasn’t the emphasis upon the ‘ontological’ superiority of the ‘ordained’ priesthood seriously unbalanced our understanding, so that we wrongly tend to see liturgical sacrifice as of a different, and superior, order to real, practical sacrifice?
Wasn’t it alone the real sacrifice of Good Friday that gave integrity and meaning to the ritual sacrifice of Holy Thursday? And isn’t it still the real sacrifices of the people of God – e.g. in almsgiving or peace work – that give integrity to the Mass liturgy? Why on earth do our clergy still never go there? Isn’t it because they have been taught that their own liturgical and sacramental role has precedence, and are still hampered by Christendom’s toleration of severe ambiguity about that word ‘sacrifice’?
Great points Sean. I truly believe this will be a battle won/lost in a courtroom and certainly not in the throws of war, however, the elitists (and I include the Pope in that list by virtue of his title and not yet his actions) don’t intend to flip a switch, so to speak. This will be a long drawn out battle which will lead to unspeakable civil unrest as we currently see in the USA and elsewhere.
This is the sign that the Pope must start to advocate for the common man. One point of reference that I once read about was for a paradigm shift in how people pay their taxes (which by memory, I attribute to Pope Benedict for some reason). If it is my human right in Canada to live a peaceful life and advocate non-violently, how is it that my tax dollars that I blindly pay go towards the militarization of society? How is it not possible that I personally disallow this at some stage in the game? I’d sooner redirect my contributions to environmental concerns. Should I be able to identify when and where this money is spent? Would this be the true democracy we are all avoiding? The elitists would say that the common man is not educated enough to know where his tax dollars are better spent. Despite this, I’m sure we are all intelligent enough to know when our human rights are being violated. Is it not against our human rights to tell us that we are free to peacefully assemble yet in a parallel existence, chain us to a system which both continuously, environmentally degrades and perpetually militarizes.
Are these Charters/Declarations not worth the paper they are written on? By virtue of birth alone, we are compelled to belong to this association; an association which allows chosen representatives to firstly perpetuate its own existence and then secondly serve us. Give Catholics the ability to revert their “military offerings” to “environmental exploration” and see what we can do in a few years. If the Pope states that we are not bound to this life of perpetual military offering, what can he do to allow us to break free from it? Is this a real enough scenario to get his attention or just the dreams of a peace-monger, ACP/ACI? The Pope may call on Catholics to act on climate change but in my opinion, it is counter-productive to do so without first securing the mechanisms which could prevent future pressure tactics.