Climate Change Conference 2018

Help Save Father Christmas’s Reindeer!  …  a Personal Reflection

Rita McManus

  On 11 December, 2018, with thirty-four fellow CAFOD climate campaigners, I returned from an overland trip to Katowice (pronounced ..tsay) in Poland.  We were there to raise concerned voices during the UN Climate Change Conference known by its acronym COP 24, convened for governments to decide precisely how to implement and monitor what they had promised to do at the Paris Agreement back in 2015.  I returned hone stunned, because I had been exposed to an uncomfortable reality which affects me personally, and which will affect my one year old granddaughter, Ada, even more, if I and we don’t take the opportunity we have right now to avert it.

  In Katowice we joined a 3,000 strong march to show solidarity with delegates representing our earth’s population, who are trying to get governments to cut carbon emissions to a figure that scientists, world-wide, agree is imperative.  You will have heard this 1.5 degrees Celsius figure.  It means that once the average global temperature has risen that much above pre-industrial levels, it will be increasingly difficult to halt the ruinous effects of a climate catastrophe.  We, individually and collectively as a world community, have about twelve years in which to make changes to stop this happening.

  We met people from the Pacific Islands, from Zambia, Malawi and the Arctic Circle.  They told their stories, thanked us for listening and pleaded for our help.  A young woman from the Sami community in Northern Norway told me that their reindeer herds are starving to death because the warming climate prevents them from getting to their food sources.

  Two women from Malawi and Zambia described the hunger erupting in their countries as rains fail and crops … and children … die, because of course, disease walks alongside climate change.

  Joe, a delegate representing the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, told us that one day, while affluent countries were quibbling about terminology and posturing with ears deaf to the plight of the earth, he walked, exhausted and despondent, onto the balcony.  He saw us marching, felt encouraged by our support and went back in to the conference room to continue to fight for the earth.  He begged us to encourage our government to take more action.

  I came home before the conference ended, but its optimism was ultimately shattered, with the wealthier countries reluctant or unwilling to agree to make the necessary changes.  So, it’s up to us to make our voices and our wishes heard.  How?

  • Become informed. Read intelligent commentary.  Look for campaigning opportunities, eg by going on to CAFOD’s website; cafod.org.uk.
  • Find inspiration in the wisdom of the young, like the truly astonishing speech to the COP 24 by 15 year old Swedish Greta Thunberg (well worth a look!)
  • Do the one thing Joe asked …. write to your MP. All we need to do is say we are disappointed by the outcomes of COP24 and profoundly concerned about the reality that is CLIMATE CHANGE and want our government to work even harder to make changes and encourage others to do the same.
  • Let’s try to LIVE SIMPLY. Consider how we can reduce our own carbon emissions and let’s just do it: reduce energy consumption at home, shop ethically and sustainably, make a determined effort to ditch the car at least one day a week.
  • Consider swapping to sustainable energy suppliers.
  • Talk to friends and family about it; at school and your place of work. Involve children and young people.  They are more savvy than we think and they care very much for the wellbeing of our planet.

  By taking actions like these, we can save Father Christmas’s reindeer as well as the human communities that are in the process of being destroyed right now.  We can put the brake on Climate Change.  We can bring about Climate Justice, where the less affluent people of our common home do not have to pay for our life style with their lives.  And all children and grandchildren will have been given the future that we want for them.

  Almost 30 years ago, Pope St John Paul ll, referring to climate change, said, “This ecological crisis is a moral issue.”  Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, describes this earth as “our common home.”

  Time, then, for some good ecological housekeeping on our part.  Let’s save Father Christmas’s reindeer …. and our own future.

Rita McManus