Hope at COP26

A Daily Update from the CCOP Program

Caroline Pomeroy, Rob Samulack, Michael Jemphrey

What makes the Christian Climate Observers’ Program (CCOP) distinctive? Over the two weeks of COP26, 40 people aged between 19 and 79 (median age around 25) from USA, Canada, UK, France, India, Macedonia, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Hong Kong* will spend a week at “Base Camp”, a Christian conference center on the outskirts of Glasgow. We are here with the specific intention of bearing witness to the COP process and communicating that back to our networks. 

The CCOP day starts with a gathering over breakfast that includes COVID tests and practical instructions about bus timetables, opportunities to meet key people, and top tips for interesting sessions with delegations. Lowell Bliss leads a morning devotion, often with the New York Times in one hand and the Bible in another, helping the group reflect on thoughts and perspectives on what we have seen and heard the previous day, and reflecting on a Bible passage.

Today we discussed what Christian hope means in the face of a climate crisis, and particularly the possible outcomes of this COP. Lowell reminded us of the crisis faced by the Israelites when confronting an overwhelming Philistine army (I Sam 13-14). The Philistines had many advantages – chariots, innumerable soldiers, plentiful weapons and the high ground. Jonathan and his armour-bearer climbed a cliff and surveyed the scene. Jonathan said to his young armour-bearer, “Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf…. Nothing will hinder the Lord from saving us whether by many or by few.” In the end, the Lord caused confusion amongst the Philistines, and the Israelites won the battle.

The Israelites must have felt overwhelmed prior to the battle. Those of us who care passionately about the climate crisis can often feel overwhelmed, tempted to believe that our words and actions are futile in the face of powerful vested interests, the continuing growth in greenhouse gas emissions, natural feedback loops, and inertia. 

In her book ‘Saving Us’, climate scientist and Christian Katharine Hayhoe warns against the twin dangers of false hope and fatalism. 

Yesterday veteran climate campaigner Bill McKibben gave a talk and reminded us of the hope of the cross. It is a symbol over every church in the world and speaks of the power of non-violence and self-sacrifice, embodied in Jesus.

We don’t know what the outcome of COP26 will be, but we know that God holds the future. Our role as Christians is to exercise robust hope, like Jonathan – or Noah – who obeyed God’s calling despite not knowing the outcome. 

Cardinal Seuns of Switzerland: “Be ready to expect the unexpected from God. The ways of providence are by nature surprising. We are not prisoners of determinism… God is here, near us, unforeseeable and loving. I hope not for human reasons or for natural optimism but because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the church and in the world even when His name remains unheard… Think only of the prophets… who in times of darkness have shed beams of light on our paths. I believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit. To hope is a duty not a luxury. To hope is not to dream but to turn dreams into realities. Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them true.”

This is part of a series of stories on COP26 that we are aggregating from a number of different organizations who have people on the frontlines at COP26 in Glasgow.