Creation Care in 2022: What to watch for… What to PRAY for:

Matthias Boehning of the WEA Sustainability Center has compiled the following important summary of coming events for 2022.

Please read, pray, and share:

There are great expectations for the new year 2022 in terms of global sustainability efforts. Much has been postponed from 2020 and 2021 to a later date in the hope of finding better framework conditions for discussions and decision-making processes. For example, “second sessions” are scheduled for several important UN conferences, which many hope can be held as face-to-face meetings after the first part only took place virtually.

Key conferences tackling the triple planetary crisis

2022 will be a crucial year in terms of the triple planetary crisis – climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Each of these complex crises will have a landmark conference this year. For this reason alone, 2022 is already a special year for everyone who is thematically concerned and actively involved with the preservation of God’s wonderful creation.

With regards to the global environmental pollution crisis, great hopes are pinned on the United Nations Environment Assembly, which will take place in Nairobi/Kenya from the end of February to the beginning of March. Among other topics, the conference, technically referred to as “UNEA 5.2” (as it is the second session of the fifth UN Environment Assembly), is dedicated to the question of whether negotiations on an urgently needed global plastic pollution treaty will finally begin.

To mitigate the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming/China from 25 April – 8 May 2022 will address the establishment of a Post-2020 Biological Diversity Framework. As believers for whom the gift of God’s creation in all its biodiversity is precious, we can hope and pray that the new conservation framework will be comprehensive and ambitious in order to halt the current rapid species extinction.

Later this year, high hopes are once again pinned on the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to make important progress on mitigating further global climate change and adapting to the climate change that is already taking place. When the parties meet in Sharm el-Sheikh/Egypt from 7-18 November 2022 much of the unfinished business from the Glasgow Climate Summit (COP26) must finally be taken a decisive step forward, first and foremost the important issue of climate finance.

A year of reflection

The year 2022 will also be a year of looking back. The Stockholm+50 Conference on 2-3 June 2022 will give the global community the opportunity to reflect on the journey so far of collective efforts towards greater environmental protection and collective responsibility for our planetary home. Fifty years ago, the nations of the world came together for the first time for a UN conference on environmental issues under the title “United Nations Conference on the Human Environment” from 5-16 June 1972 in the Folkets Hus building in Stockholm/Sweden.

The outcome document of this first world conference with an environmental focus defined 26 key principles for action and made 109 recommendations in three categories in its Action Plan. One of the most important results was the founding of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which will also celebrate its 50th birthday in 2022.

Much in the new year is thus reminiscent of the beginnings of the global environmental movement and the structural handling of environmental issues at the level of the United Nations. World Environment Day 2022 (also hosted by Sweden immediately following the Stockholm+50 conference) also looks back into history and picks up the theme “Only One Earth” of the 1972 conference.

However, given the triple planetary crisis mentioned at the beginning, looking back in the middle of the year should not be limited to happy celebrations and birthday songs for UNEP. If the Stockholm+50 conference gives itself the title “A healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity”, then during the two days in Sweden the unpleasant realisation that the global community has not fulfilled its responsibility in the past five decades should also be discussed. And that it has not taken advantage of opportunities for individual and collective action to preserve a healthy planet for the prosperity of all.

Strength of action from the power of lament

Stockholm+50 offers the opportunity to pause and acknowledge what has not been achieved despite all the lofty goals and grand ambitions. And this from the level of global organisations, through heads of state and government, national ministries, and agencies, to local actors and even individuals. It would be appropriate to collectively acknowledge ruthlessly for a moment that failures at various levels – from personal immorality in relation to an aspired sustainable lifestyle to the level of high politics with often a lack of political will – have led to a massive worsening of the environmental crisis and the galloping increase of complex problems for human coexistence on this earth.

Of course, the can-do mentality that is expected to be the defining atmosphere at the three major triple planetary crisis conferences (especially when face-to-face meetings will finally be possible again after almost two years) is in principle good and to be welcomed. However, the world community would reach a new level of joint effort if proactive activism was coupled with strength of action, which is fed by personal concern about what has not been achieved and by the creative power of personal and collective lament. This would create a completely different, hitherto unknown, momentum in 2022 to tackle the important milestones for overcoming the triple planetary crisis.

For this reason, 2022 can and should be a defining moment for faith communities around the world, including the Evangelical Creation Care community. As believers, we have something to offer at this point that is not part of the classic toolbox of environmental campaigners, which consists primarily of fear on the one hand or action euphoria and group dynamics on the other.

Looking back together in dismay in combination with individual and collective lament offers the chance of an even deeper connection with each other in the pain over one’s own inability to act, which is often observed, and the search for further sources of action and motivation. This creates the historical possibility for repentance and conversion to be recognised as decisive factors for a real, deep change of traditional ways of thinking and acting even at the level of global politics.

The year 2022 – an opportunity for faith?

Against this background, the Stockholm+50 Conference and World Environment Day 2022 could be a unique global moment of faith. A chance for spiritual truths to receive honest and open-minded consideration even at the level of global UN policy. Provided, of course, faith actors worldwide recognise and seize the opportunities inherent in this year that has just begun.

As Christians, we hope and pray that by looking back and deeply reflecting, the year 2022 will lead to greater realisation of how we got to where we are: In the midst of a humanly caused and humanly amplified global crisis, which in turn delays global decision-making processes that are critically important to contain global crises of equally enormous magnitude in time and hopefully resolve them in the medium term.

And we hope and pray that this year will see decisive progress in the triple planetary crisis fields of action (environmental pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change), so that the year 2022 becomes a year of hope for people and planet.

by Matthias K. Boehning, Co-Director of the World Evangelical Alliance Sustainability Center