COP 23: Impressions and Outcomes

What’s it all about?

The UN Climate Conference (CoP23) took place in Bonn in Germany in November 2017. This is the twenty third such conference, an annual event bringing together governments, NGOs and others to negotiate a collective response to climate change. 

One task for the conference, which assembled some 20,000 delegates from around the world, is to put into effect the agreement reached in Paris in 2015. This was discussed in plenary sessions and other meetings by diplomats from countries around the world. But alongside this were fringe events in a pop up campus of national pavilions, displays and events. For those familiar with Edinburgh it is similar to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe; one formal, high level and serious; the other a riotous market place of ideas and activities in which it is impossible to sample more than a tiny proportion of what is on offer.

How are churches involved?

The Church of Scotland attended as part of the World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation. The WCC has a longstanding commitment and has been represented at every CoP. It is one of many faith based organisations now involved and with the ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) is passionately involved in the process. 

The First Minister hears stories from the Pacific

The conference, although based in Germany, was chaired by Fiji and there were a large number of delegates from the Pacific island bringing their stories and concerns. This is one of the great strengths of the CoP process; it is a place where those countries most affected by climate change can share their concerns and present them in a very public forum to the richer countries of the world.

The Church of Scotland helped bring together the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and two delegates from Pacific churches, Frances Namoumou from the Pacific Conference of Churches and Tafue Lusama from the Congregational Church in Tuvalu. Frances and Tafue were able to share their stories of impact of climate change; of droughts, flooding and sea level rise and also to explain how churches are working with governments to help those affected for example in moving away from flooding  to higher ground. You can find out more here.


Faith groups said: It is our moral and ethical responsibility to take collective and immediate actions to address climate change and to safeguard life on our planet

Frances Namoumou presented the interfaith statement including these words to the CoP plenary. The statement was signed by faith leaders around the world including the Moderator of the General Assembly.

A ‘just transition’ is the subject of fierce controversy

The just transition to a low carbon economy was frequently debated. The International Trades Union congress demanded that workers’ rights are respected but the concept was challenged by those for whom forced migration is now a real possibility.

Pacific Warriors demand climate justice

The human rights of those people most affected by climate change including women, children and indigenous peoples were strongly asserted, notably by the Pacific Warriors who presented the message in dramatic style.

Millions of Americans say ‘we are still in!’

While the US Government kept a low profile an unofficial US delegation including churches , universities, NGOs, business, states and cities (and Arnold Schwarzenegger) noisily announced ‘We are still in’

The hosts, Germany, did not escape criticism. 

Germany is still actively coal mining and protesters took journalists to a huge open cast coal mine nearby demanding ‘Ende Gelände’  (The end of the Story) . The UK and Canada launched a campaign to end the use of coal as a source of energy.

Is Divestment and re-investment the new normal?

Transferring finance from fossil fuel development to a new low carbon economy was promoted as a theme not only by campaigners :  but also by the OECD:


Adrian Shaw, Church of Scotland

ashawatchurchofscotland [dot] org [dot] uk ()

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