WCC climate work looks to unite a global voice on climate change, justice, food, and health

As the World Council of Churches (WCC) Climate Working Group meets this month, the advisory body is looking forward to offering the fruits of its work for reflection and, most important, action at the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe. Below, Rev. Henrik Grape, senior advisor on Care for Creation, Sustainability, and Climate Justice, reflects on climate justice work in the lead-up to the assembly and beyond.

What are some highlights of the ongoing efforts of the Climate Working Group that you will bring to the WCC 11th Assembly—and beyond?

Rev. Grape: The WCC working group on Climate Change could not meet physically since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But during this period we have met online several times, and we have kept up the good work. The scientific evidence and the human suffering related to climate change is more obvious every year. We have gathered voices from the global fellowship of churches to be more outspoken on the need to act now for climate justice.

In our August meeting, we will have time to reflect on what we have done over the years but also envision the future: how the WCC can be more effective, inspire churches and congregations, urge governments to pursue deep-seated and immediate action to respond to the climate emergency, and explore and deepen different interconnected initiatives. For example, we have been increasingly connecting our work with Indigenous peoples, as our report to the WCC central committee shows. This goes also with cooperation on water justice and food security. We hope the WCC work after the assembly will engage the entire fellowship in focused action in view of the urgency of socio-economic transformations needed as underlined by the IPCC reports. We hope it can be more integrated, though we already work together in many aspects related to ecology and economic justice. An important aspect of this work is the interfaith dialogue on climate justice. WCC has practiced this for some years now at the UNFCCC climate negotiations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this interfaith work has grown and there are many initiatives  in which WCC has been involved to mobilize an interfaith voice on climate change. This can be even more developed over the near future.

What are you most looking forward to with your work at the assembly?

Rev. Grape: I am looking forward to the Ecumenical Conversations on water and climate. I think that the outcomes of that dialogue will strengthen the ecumenical voice on this work but I also hope that it will show the importance of keeping the agenda together with economic justice, and action on food and health. And I also hope that the Season of Creation celebration will boost our justice work. Since we will be at the assembly on the 1 September, the start of the Season of Creation, I hope that this will get more WCC member churches on track for action on eco-justice. Finally I look forward to engaging with Indigenous and youth voices.

Would you like to comment on COP in Egypt?

Rev. Grape: COP27 is an important COP since the reviewing of the targets to keep the 1.5 degree track will be at every COP now, rather than every fifth year. Since the reports form IPCC are very clear on the very short time span to curb the emissions, this is of high importance. But promised financial contributions to adaptation funds must be met as well. This time that challenge is even bigger because of the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries seem to hide behind those very problematic historic events. COP27 in Egypt is also important for us as faith communities; we need to have a good interfaith dialogue. That can mobilize a moral voice that can be pivotal to take brave steps forward—I think that WCC is an important player to achieve that. Hopefully we will see member churches in the region being active at COP27. And it is good to be reminded that COP27 is an "African COP” even if it is located more in the Middle East region. But we see a strong commitment from the All Africa Conference of Churches to be active in the forefront on this COP, and be a true voice for climate justice.

Read more: oikoumene.org