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At COP27, Welby says the planet ‘is near the point of no return’

The U.N. climate conference is taking place form Nov. 6 to 18.

As the U.N. Conference of Parties climate gathering (COP27) got underway in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released a statement saying that the world environment is “perilously near the point of no return.”

“As global leaders gather at COP27, the world holds its breath. A world which has this year suffered further catastrophic flooding, drought, heatwaves and storms. A world already in crisis.  A world which knows that we are perilously near the point of no return,” he said.

The conference runs from Nov. 6 to 18 and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has appointed an 18-member delegation, the Public Affairs Office announced. It is the eighth year the presiding bishop has convened Episcopalians to participate in the work of climate change advocacy in the global forum.

Welby noted that he has personally seen the effects of climate change.

“I’ve seen this myself just recently in Australia, whose great wealth is no protection against the flooding in New South Wales. And if it can happen in one of the most prosperous parts of the world, how much more devasting in one of the poorest like South Sudan, where more flooding has led to food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.

“Living as one human family, I pray that we will hear clearly the voices of those suffering on the brutal front line of climate change and climate injustice. I pray that together we will listen to young people and indigenous peoples. At this COP, hosted in Africa, the perspectives from that continent must be heard,” he said.

Welby said the crisis calls for an urgent global response that prioritizes climate justice.

“It is imperative that we seek justice so that those nations with greatest responsibility will take the lead, achieving net-zero carbon emissions and supporting other countries in this transition.

“God calls us to embrace justice. Christian scripture describes how we share in the ‘renewed creation of heaven and earth with justice’ (2 Peter 3:13). Let justice flow so that we see human lives and hope restored, and the life of the earth itself protected and renewed.”

The members of the Episcopal delegation were selected from among respondents to a churchwide call. This year’s COP27 hybrid platform allows for a wider representation of Episcopal delegates, who will participate virtually and in person in daily events.

“This is a pivotal moment when global leaders are taking seriously the witness of the American faith community,” said the Rev. Melanie Mullen, the Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, justice, and creation care. “We are seeking to lead the way in demanding a moral approach to addressing climate change and insisting that the communities that are impacted first and worst by climate change won’t be left behind.”

This year’s delegation will focus on advocacy around accountability for what the U.N. calls “loss and damage,” noted Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California, head of the delegation.

“Loss and damage is the devastation experienced by vulnerable communities, most often people of color—devastation of such a magnitude that whole ways of life are lost, and whole communities are forced to relocate,” he said.

“We will seek to be in solidarity with such communities, and to amplify their voices that demand justice. Such solidarity is in keeping with our commitment to the Beloved Community proclaimed by Jesus.”

Delegates will report back on their experiences during an online closing event at noon ET Nov. 30, open to all. Learn more and register.

In addition to Andrus, the delegates are: Coco de Marneffe, Diocese of New York; Justin Dehnert, Diocese of New York; Bishop Francisco Duque, Diocese of Colombia; Christopher Fullerton, Diocese of West Texas; Bishop Carol Gallagher, Diocese of Massachusetts; Seán Hansen, Diocese of Chicago; Emily Hennen, Diocese of North Carolina; Aisha Huertas, Diocese of Virginia; John Kydd, Diocese of Olympia; Kelsey Larson, Diocese of Massachusetts; Bishop Mark Lattime, Diocese of Alaska; Ethan Marshall, Diocese of Southwest Florida; Kara-Lyn Moran, Diocese of New York; Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, Diocese of Texas; Dr. M. Paloma Pavel, Diocese of California; Katie Ruth, Diocese of Central Pennsylvania; the Rev. Anna Shine, Diocese of Western North Carolina; Anita Urassa, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.

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