11 September 2014
Climate change: Young Christians call on EU to commit to eco-justice “We stand for Sustainability and Eco-justice” was the main conclusion of the conference which was held in Brussels on 9 September. The Conference, co-organised by Christian organisations in Brussels1, gathered representatives of the EU Institutions, Christian youth organisations and churches representatives. The forum emphasised that entering a path to decarbonise societies and climate justice can be achieved only through cooperation of many stakeholders including those from politics, civil society and churches. A specific role is to be given to the younger generation in this process.
The EU is among the major players in the global climate negotiations. The EU is committed to adopting the principles of its climate policy and objectives for 2030 at the meeting of the European Council in October 2014. The conference offered a space for an exchange of views and raised specific concerns related to the Christian and youth perspective. The main point was the close and inseparable link between climate change and justice.
The Italian Presidency of the EU has a particular task to finalise the negotiations and to complete (the) discussions on the EU climate policy for 2030. According to Roberta di Lecce, Climate Change Attaché from the Permanent Representation of Italy, “The EU through its objectives for 2030 climate policies tries to set an example for other countries”.
”There is real urgency to act now, because already at this stage we are living on borrowed time. There is a window of opportunity to achieve a global agreement on climate change next year at the conference in Paris. The EU needs to be ready,” underlined Yrjö Mäkelä, Deputy Head of Unit, International and Inter-Institutional relations at DG Climate Action of the European Commission.
Effective tackling of climate change requires political decisions having consequences on the functioning of the economy, as well as lifestyle of individuals and communities. Civil society and Christians communities can play an important role. The conference gave the floor to projects citing examples and providing inspiration on how Christians youth organisations and churches can get involved and convey their specific approach.
The Youth of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of North Germany presented outcomes of their Youth Climate Conference and the commitment “to shape our way of life in such a way that it conforms with the objectives of CO2 reduction.”
Raphael Breyer from the Federation of Catholic Youth presented the project ‘I shop fair’ which proves that responsibility and consuming can go together. The project, which is being run in Germany, Austria, Poland and Malta aims at convincing church institutions and public administration to move to a more responsible internal purchasing policy.
In Italy, an initiative from the Salesian community movement “Turismo giovanile e sociale” fosters sustainable Tourism by educating the youth who are discovering the world, to safeguard all creation.
In the ensuing panel discussion, Margarete Auken, an MEP from Denmark reacted positively to the projects presentation. She stressed that “in tackling effects of climate change the EU needs to increase its level of ambitions and be responsive to various initiatives from different segments of society.”
According to Pawel Pustelnik, Member of the Campaign Coordination Team of EYCE’s Campaign to Promote Ecological Justice, “The EU climate policies should be much more responsive to the need for inclusion on intergenerational solidarity and eco-justice.”
Churches in Europe play a positive role in supporting an active and committed approach to protection of the environment. Particular emphasis is, in this respect, given to the concept of justice and sufficiency. Peter Pavlovič from Conference of European Churches in this regard pointed out that: “Climate change is an effect of modern spiritual setting which demands an ever increasing consumption in our households, individual lives and in society. It cannot be addressed without considering the limits in our consumption and how we use energy and natural resources.”
In summarising the evening Fr. Patrick Daly from COMECE emphasised: “Climate is a gift from God. Climate change has implications for all of us. It is an ecumenical task for all churches. Churches can make a specific contribution by emphasising the need for the practice of modesty and moderation.”
(1) The Secretariat of COMECE, the Conference of European Churches , Don Bosco International, the Ecumenical Youth Council in Europe, the Evangelical Church in Germany, Brussels office, the Federation of Protestant Youth in Germany and Rete Juventutis which is represented by the European Office for Catholic Youth Work and Adult Education.
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The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 national council of churches and organisations in partnership. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.www.ceceurope.org
The Church and Society Commission of CEC links member churches, national council of churches and organisations in partnership of CEC with the European Union’s institutions, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, NATO and the UN (on European matters). Its task is to help the churches study church and society questions from a theological and social-ethical perspective, especially those with a European dimension, and to represent common positions of the member churches in their relations with political institutions working in Europe.