Catholic Actors at COP27

Paul Rahmat SVD

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, is recorded as the biggest in COP history. COP27 brought together more than 45,000 participants, including indigenous peoples, local communities, cities, scientists, civil society, women, faith-based groups, youth, and children.

The so-called “Catholic Actors” were among the participants actively present at the COP. They represented various national, regional, and international Catholic organizations across the globe. They were, among others, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Laudato Si Movement, Ecclesiastical Network of the Congo Basin Forest (REBAC), Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), CAFOD, Caritas Internationalis, CIDSE, Misereor, Ecojesuit, Justice and Peace Egypt, Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA), and International Young Catholic Students (IYCS-JECI).

In addition, there were also some Catholic delegates representing a few International NGOs, known as Religious at the UN (RUN), as part of the Catholic actors. They included VIVAT International, Carmelite NGO, UNANIMA International, Franciscan International, Dominican Leadership Conference, and Medical Mission Sisters.

The presence of the Holy See delegates and the active participation of the Local Catholic Coptic Church at COP27 brought a sense of closeness and togetherness among the Catholic actors. They all carry out the same moral mandate and imperative mission in our time to respond to the cries of people and the earth. “I am proud of you,” said Apostolic nuncio to Egypt, Archbishop Nicolas Thévenin, to the Catholic delegates. “I bring the Holy Father’s warm greetings to all of you.”  Archbishop Thévenin is the deputy leader of the Holy See delegation to COP27. The active presence of Catholic actors from different organizations, countries, continents, diverse cultures and nationalities from the Global South and Global North was considered an added value of unity and solidarity that the Catholic Church contributed to COP27.

While the Catholic actors greatly appreciated the step taken by the Holy See to formally join for the first time as a party at the COP, some Catholic activists were concerned about the absence of Catholic women groups at the UN climate conference. At an internal meeting of Catholic actors with the Holy See delegation, UNANIMA International Director, Jean Quinn, raised a critical question about the absence of Catholic women representatives at COP27 among the Holy See delegates.

Catholics’ Voices and Actions

Catholic delegates submitted a joint written statement on “implementing climate solutions and upholding social justice at COP27 to the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” It underscored some crucial issues, including the establishment of loss and damage (L&D) finance and the acceleration of energy transition from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. The Catholic actors demanded that parties enhance the current climate finance for co-beneficial, community-based, and ecosystem-based approaches to reduce related risks and vulnerabilities. They also urged a democratic process applied to COP by providing mechanisms and spaces for meaningful and inclusive participation in climate policy-making at the global and national levels.

Besides submitting the statement, the Catholic actors also actively participated in various programs and actions, from attending seminars, organizing side events, and exhibiting movies, videos, and pictures to joining daily protest actions organized by civil society groups. The Catholic delegates also conducted a spiritual journey to Mount Sinai. They also attended a Sunday Mass service led by the vice president of SECAM, Cardinal Frudoline Bambongo, from Kinshasa Archdiocese, Democratic Republic of Congo.

VIVAT International joined the Catholic organizations to sign the Catholic delegates’ statement and co-sponsor a side-event entitled “Catholic Perspective at COP27 – Climate and Biodiversity Justice from a Faith Perspective.”  VIVAT delegates contributed the video “One Billion Bamboo Initiative” from VIVAT Philippines to exhibit at the COP. They also created two interactive dialogues: one between the VIVAT Delegates at the COP and VIVAT members on the ground; and another between youth activists at the COP and young people from VIVAT grassroots communities.

VIVAT delegates – Alberto Parise MCCJ, Paola Moggi CMS and Paul Rahmat SVD – were very blessed to meet and talk with Mgr. Claudio Lurati MCCJ, Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. He was present at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.