Keeping hope alive for real action on climate change – COP26 official chats to the Lambeth Conference about the vital role of faith communities

Nikita Mistry

A climate change official for the UK government believes faith groups can play a vital role in inspiring a global response to climate change and driving worldwide action.

Nikita Mistry heads up the government’s Civil Society Engagement for the climate change summit, COP 26. Her role is to engage with faith communities in the UK and around the world to help ensure the public, including faith groups, have a voice in the summit.

Nikita spoke to the Lambeth Conference team about her hopes for the conference and how both bishops and churches can have an impact.

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on the 31st of October until the 12th of November. Nikita explained, “The COP 26 summit brings together parties to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework on climate change. The UK is committed to hosting an inclusive summit that includes the voices of those on the frontline of climate change in faith communities, and wider civil society.”

“We set out four goals. The first is around securing global net-zero by mid-century, and keeping 1.5 degrees within reach. The key to this will be accelerating the phase-out of fossil fuels, curtailing deforestation and speeding up the switch to electronic vehicles and encouraging the investment in renewables.”

She said the second goal is around protecting communities and natural habitats. “It’s really clear, that climate change is having an impact now, and we need to work together to ensure that we protect the countries that are most affected at the moment.”

“The third and really key goal is around ensuring that developed countries make good on their promise to mobilise 100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020. The final goal, which is where faith communities were also quite important, ensures accelerating action to tackle climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society.”

Faith groups play a vital role in taking action on the climate crisis

Nikita said faith communities, which represent over 80% of the world’s population, can play a vital role. “We know that faith groups have a unique perspective on climate change and in protecting the planet, supporting those on the frontline, and in terms of reaching communities around the world.”

Bishop Graham Usher -is the Bishop of Norwich and the Church of England’s lead bishop for the environment

“The voices of faith groups can and have played a really vital role in inspiring a global response to climate change and driving worldwide action.”

She said the main areas where faith communities could have an impact include amplifying the relevant guidance to encourage world action and behaviour change to care for the planet. “They could help in setting measurable real-world actions to combat climate change, for example, moving financial investments into renewable energy,” Nikita said.

What are young people most concerned about when it comes to the climate crisis?

“What comes across really strongly is the responsibility to protect those on the front line and future generations. And what we’ve seen within the COP process is that young people are not only demanding change, but they also have solutions. That has been great and it’s exciting.

“We need to make sure we get the balance right, to advocate for what they’re calling for, as well as supporting the sheer innovation and ideas that they are bringing to the table.”

How can bishops help make young people’s voices heard on climate change?

“I think bishops can have a really key role in listening to young people. Part of this is being very honest about the discussions and taking an intergenerational perspective. Both generations have lots to learn from each other. So, having discussions about: what’s been learned, what has worked well and what hasn’t, what is happening now, how things are different and how can we work together and having open and free-flowing dialogue, will all be valuable.”

What would you like to see bishops of the Lambeth conference doing to work together to advance the goals on climate change?

“I think that the bishops have a unique position of influence and wisdom to share with the world – using that influence to keep the messages on the environment alive. We have a small window of time to make these changes. My message of hope would be, ‘keep taking action in your communities and supporting those frontline voices to be heard on equal platforms.’”

How can the diverse experiences of bishops build a better understanding of climate change?

“I think having dialogues of different groups is really powerful. So of course, bishops will come from many different countries, and some will have indigenous peoples, so there will be experience and wisdom to share.

“A lot of our work is around the international calendar, so using key moments like the G7, as catalysts for conversations and bringing groups together would really help. Having these dialogues helps to keep hope alive and ensure that we’re working across society to reach our climate gains. We can’t all do this this separately, so we need to work together for this monumental challenge. Convening different groups, talking to different groups, as well as sharing the wisdom from different parts of society, this will all help keep hope alive.

What is your message to the Anglican church about getting involved in climate change?

“As the United Kingdom takes on the presidency of COP 26, we want to ensure that we are continuing to set an example. The Anglican bishops are all doing great work, but there’s more to be done. Leading by example is really powerful. So, I would just encourage the bishops and the churches to keep doing that. There are lots of ways that all of society can work to transition towards a fairer, greener economy. The moral voice, spiritual voice and leading by example are all-powerful and will help us to achieve that.”

Join the Environment Discussions – Lambeth Conference Bishops’ Conversations

The Lambeth Conference Bishops’ Conversations in November will focus on the environment and what it means to care for creation. All Anglican bishops are invited to participate. To register – or get more information – contact the Lambeth Conference team today.

open to all:
the Phase 3 webinars