Episcopal climate-talks delegation plans to continue church’s advocacy

By ENS Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2017


[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians from across the church are heading to Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd United Nations climate change conference, where they hope to continue the advocacy begun at the past two gatherings.

Officially known as the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Nov. 6-17 conference is an annual intergovernmental meeting to focus on global dialogue and action around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Fiji is presiding over COP23 in Bonn with the support of the German government. More information on COP23 can be found here.

Previous meetings have produced the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement, which serve as the basis for standards on climate action and carbon emission reductions.

Appointed by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to represent him, the 11-member COP23 delegation will share Episcopal Church resolutions on climate change and information about the church and its ministries centered on eco-justice. Led by Diocese California Bishop Marc Andrus, the delegation will offer a spiritual presence through daily interfaith prayer and worship and will encourage active churchwide engagement by Episcopalians through virtual participation and social media.

“Our goals are to build on the work done at previous conferences by urging member states to implement the Paris Agreement and pay particular attention to developing nations and the poor,” said the Rev. Canon Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church, in a press release.

Robertson said the delegation also hopes to “network within the accredited and public zones of the conference to spread the word about what the Episcopal Church is doing on climate issues.”

In addition, the delegation hopes its efforts will “raise awareness across the Episcopal Church of the importance of engaging on climate change as Christians,” according to Robertson, and “digitally engage Episcopalians in that work.”

This event marks the third Episcopal delegation to attend a COP meeting. A delegation attended COP21 in Paris in 2015, advocating for an agreement aligning with General Convention resolutions related to climate change. In 2016, a delegation traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco, for COP22, which focused on implementing the Paris Agreement and birthed the “We’re Still In [the Paris Agreement]” movement.

The Paris Agreement, which went into effect Nov. 4, 2016, calls on the countries of the world to limit carbon emissions, which will require a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources; and for developed countries, those responsible for the majority of emissions both historically and today, to commit to $100 billion in development aid annually by 2020 to developing countries.

The agreement, which is a legally binding agreement, established specific actions and targets for reducing greenhouse gases emissions, mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, and financing mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. Signatory countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and to make strong efforts to keep the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Bonn meeting takes place against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s oft-repeated promise to fulfill his campaign vow to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement and curb the country’s commitment to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. According to the agreement’s rule, the United States cannot actually withdraw until 2020.

He claimed in his initial June 1 announcement that the pact was bad for the U.S. economy but said he might be open to renegotiating its terms to be more “pro-American.” That conditional approach has continued.

Trump has called human-caused climate change a “hoax” and the concept of global warming a Chinese plot.

The New York Times reported Nov. 2 that the Trump administration will promote coal, natural gas and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change at a presentation in Bonn. The administration on Nov. 3 allowed release of the United States’ National Climate Assessment, which is required by law, even though its conclusions state that human action causes climate change, the Washington Post said.

How to join the delegation’s participation

  • Follow the delegation via its website, via Twitter (#EpiscopalClimate @EpiscoClimate) and on Facebook.
  • Pray for climate action.
  • Share parish or faith community activities on climate action here.
  • Send prayer requests, personal poems or prayers for consideration at the interfaith service in Bonn here.
  • Check out these resources offered as by the church’s Office of Government Relations.


The delegation brings together a range of environmental, liturgical and churchwide experience in its representation of the presiding bishop.

The members of the Episcopal Church delegation with accredited observer status are the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California; Jack Cobb, domestic and environmental policy adviser, Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations; and Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations.

Observer status allows each of these team members the ability to brief U.N. representatives on General Convention climate resolutions and to attend a variety of meetings in the official zone. Additionally, Andrus has been invited to address the inaugural U.N. meeting of the “We’re Still In [the Paris Agreement]” movement.

Other team members tasked with monitoring U.N. negotiations and networking:

  • Sheila Andrus, ecological entomologist and science manager based in the Episcopal Diocese of California
  • The Rev. Andrew Barnett, associate for music and worship at the Washington National Cathedral and environmental scholar
  • Michael Coffey, an atmospheric scientist and professor at the University of the South, Sewanee
  • Nathan Empsall, Episcopal Church Global Partnerships/U.N. intern and communications specialist, and Yale Divinity School seminarian
  • Perry Hodgkins Jones, writer and member of the Episcopal Church Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation
  • The Rev. Melanie Mullen, Episcopal Church director for reconciliation, justice and creation care
  • Tom Poynor, Episcopal Church chaplain, University of California-Berkeley and scholar in theology and the arts, Diocese of California
  • Bill Slocumb, director of Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers and member of the Episcopal Communicators

For more information, contact Lynnaia Main at lmain@episcopalchurch.org.


Comments (6)

  1. David Horwath says:

    Interesting that the Episcopal Church is flying 11 people to Bonn for a global warming COP. A plane flight from New York to Frankfurt is equivalent to driving an SUV about 6000 miles according to one of the carbon calculators on the internet.Perhaps the Presiding Bishop should start thinking more about the declining church attendance than attending a COP, and also ask why he should be burning fossil fuels for a European trip to attend a conference whose goal is to reduce carbon emissions.

  2. John Miller says:

    The above comment is a straw man. Since we have limited means and time to attend meetings we are stuck with fossil fuel machines to get us there. All churches are facing declining membership (maybe different than declining attendance–the Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative group, has been losing members for the past decade) in the West. Churches should not be measured on membership but on how they are acting as the body of Christ in the world. God loves the poor as stated in many Biblical passages. we are called to be good stewards of the world. Climate change is a threat to our existence, and to a great extent to the poor. I applaud the church’s involvement in this effort and should be advocating for the plight of the poor.

  3. Ken Thomas says:

    It is my hope that open minds will prevail at this convention. There has never been an open discussion regarding “climate change or global warming”. There have never been any REAL debates covering this politically charged topic. Not one scientific debate has ever occurred and only false faked corrupted have been used to sway the public opinion toward this false hypocrisy.

  4. mike geibel says:

    The Episcopal Church has not been anointed with the authority to speak for or to bind American Taxpayers to the Paris Accord’s crippling $100 billion “penalty payments” to China, India and other countries. The declining membership means Episcopalians are now less than 1% of the USA population, and it is rather presumptuous for the leadership to pretend they speak for the Nation or even for all Episcopalians or Christians.

    The billions in U.S. taxpayer money should be used to develop clean energy alternatives in the U.S., and to share that technology with other nations. I think most of us, liberal and conservative, agree that clean, renewable energy sources improve air and water quality, reduce pollution, and promote our national security, but the Paris Accord will destroy jobs and divert the funding needed to underwrite technological progress to clean energy within our own borders. Even an electric car is not “green” if its batteries are charged by carbon based power plants or auxiliary combustion engines.

    A President does not have the unilateral power to bind the Country and American taxpayers to the payment of billions of taxpayer money to other countries. The Constitution requires treaties to be ratified by Congress, and calling it an “accord” rather than a “treaty” is an attempt to circumvent the Constitutional process that is a core element of a representative democracy.

    Addressing climate change should not be a partisan or a religious debate—the conversation should center on science and non-partisan issues of national security and the continued economic and environmental health of the Nation. Realistic solutions require input from industry, science and governments, but not input by religious institutions whose leadership focuses upon demonizing the President or other opponents who may believe the Paris Accord as currently structured is fatally flawed. Slogans like “eco-justice” and “environmental racism” are emotionalized pseudo-terminology used to justify a political agenda—the terms find no residence in the dictionary and are polarizing in that these terms reflect a “blame America” guilt-based ideology for every social and global problem.

    Linked into the Article is the “Genesis Covenant” (2009-C070) asking all churches and Episcopalians to voluntarily reduce their own carbon footprints by 50%. The resolution has been a quiet failure. After 8 years, the Church has not been able to achieve the 50% reduction target in its own Churches and congregations, so how realistic is it to expect entire countries to do the same in four years? The Genesis Covenant and some of the other TEC resolutions are well-intentioned, but end up being unrealistic expressions when the goals are not fiscally or technologically achievable. There are States and countries where existing solar and wind generated power is weather-impractical, and environmentalists within the Church oppose hydro-electric power plants as an alternative, clean energy source. Demonizing capitalism and oppressive monetary penalties will only lower the standard of living of Americans and make poor countries even poorer, and it will not mitigate climate change.

  5. mike geibel says:

    the required fields are filled in.

  6. David Horwath says:

    Thanks for trying to inject science and pragmatism into the climate change/global warming debate. I spent my working life in the chemical plants and refineries and I am dedicated to science and engineering. Global warming is real and there are definitely scientific, technical, economic and development issues to be resolved however the injection of ideology and partisanship has warped and eliminated any discussion that should start with science and pragmatism. The issues can not be resolved with emotion.

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