Climate change: Vulnerable nations call for ’emergency pact’ 

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The countries most vulnerable to climate change are calling for an “emergency pact” to tackle rising temperatures. 

The group wants all countries to agree radical steps to avoid “climate catastrophe” at the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow. 

Green campaigners are urging a postponement of the gathering, citing problems with vaccines for delegates. 

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) says the event is critical and cannot wait.

Representing some 1.2 billion people, the CVF consists of countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific. 

The group has been key in pushing the rest of the world to accept the idea of keeping the rise in global temperatures to under 1.5C this century.

This was incorporated into the Paris agreement in 2015. 

Recent research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changesuggests that the threshold will be passed in little over a decade at current rates of carbon emissions.

In less than two months, global leaders will gather in Glasgow for COP26, the most critical meeting on climate change since Paris.

Ahead of the Glasgow meeting, the CVF has issued a manifesto for what the conference must deliver to keep the planet safe and protect the most vulnerable. 

Environmental groups have suggested postponing the meeting, on the grounds that vaccine distribution is inequitable and that delegates from poorer countries face huge bills for quarantine hotels when they arrive in the UK.

However, the CVF member states insist the meeting must go ahead in person, and are calling for support and “facilitated access” to ensure inclusive participation. 

The UK government has responded to these calls by agreeing to pay the quarantine hotel expenses of any delegate, observer or media from a developing country.

The vulnerable group says that progress on climate change has stalled and COP26 should move forward with what it terms a “climate emergency pact”.

This would see every country put forward a new climate plan every year between now and 2025.

At present, signatories of the Paris agreement are only obliged to put forward new plans every five years. 

The vulnerable nations say that richer countries must fulfil their obligations to deliver $100bn in climate finance per year over the 2020-24 period.

The CVF nations want this money to be split 50-50 between cutting carbon and helping countries adapt to the threat posed by rising temperatures. 

The countries also want the UK to “take full responsibility” for this aspect of the negotiations, saying it is vital to restore confidence in the Paris pact. 

Among the other areas that the most vulnerable nations want to see progress on is the question of debt-for-climate swaps. 

Many of the world’s poorest countries have large debt burdens, and these have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has stretched finances even further. 

In a debt-for-climate swap, a country can reduce what it owes to international creditors by directing the debt service payments to fund renewable energy or greater protection for nature.

One such restructuring was recently announced by Belize where the debt money will now go to support marine conservation projects instead.

“Vulnerable countries have unique needs – and public-private collaboration will be key to addressing them,” said Nigel Topping, who’s the UK’s high-level climate action champion for COP26.

“Whether it is in debt for nature swaps such as the recent Belize announcement or in increasing public sector capability to structure investment projects to attract private finance, the aim is to accelerate progress in this area so that 2022 becomes the year of climate action solidarity.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58477926

More than 250 people fast in solidarity with climate hunger strikers in DC 

Participants in the All Saints’ Day solidarity fast organized by Catholic Climate Covenant and the Ignatian Solidarity Network visit climate hunger strikers outside the White House in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Josh Burg)

Seeing her brother sitting in a wheelchair in front of the White House day after day, declining all food and most liquids, Karen Campion felt worried, but also proud of him.

“It is incredibly difficult to watch your little brother go on a hunger strike,” Campion, 32, who lives in Rockville, Maryland, told EarthBeat. “It’s been a high stress time for our family.”

Her brother, Paul Campion, 24, and four other young climate activists from the Sunrise Movement began a hunger strike Oct. 20, calling for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to keep their pledge to include strong climate action in domestic spending bills before Congress. Paul Campion held a sign that read, “Hunger striking for my future children.” 

He broke his fast Oct. 30, after 11 days, because of health complications, and the others suspended the hunger strike Nov. 2, a day after Biden announced at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, that the United States would achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In a tweet, they said, “Today, we end our strike. But our survival still depends on Joe Biden and other Democrats like him.”

The day before the strike ended, the action by Campion and the other strikers inspired more than 250 people to join a 24-hour All Saints’ Day solidarity fast organized by Catholic Climate Covenant and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Participants pledged to fast from sunrise Nov. 1 until sunrise Nov. 2. Some posted videos on social media explaining why they were taking part.

In her message of solidarity with her brother, Karen Campion drew a connection between migration and climate change.

“I work with children, many of whose families have migrated from Central America, and I don’t want them to become refugees again,” she said.

Jesuit Br. Mark Mackey of Loyola University Chicago said he was fasting in solidarity with Paul Campion, an alumnus of the university, as well as other fasters, those gathered for the COP26 U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, and “with Jesus, who showed us in his time on Earth that fasting was a good way of using our bodies prayerfully.”

Besides fasting, participants in the day of solidarity were also encouraged to lobby their legislators on climate action, especially the measures that triggered the hunger strike.

A $1 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill has passed the U.S. Senate but still faces a vote in the House of Representatives, while opposition from two Democratic senators is holding up a vote on a $1.75 trillion budget reconciliation bill that includes around $550 billion for climate-related measures.

Organizers of the solidarity fast said that during the day, 61 people reported having called their congressional representatives, with many saying it was the first time they’d ever done so. The Ignatian Solidarity Network is organizing another day of virtual advocacy Nov. 16.

In Washington, D.C., Paul Campion joined other Catholics who showed up at the White House during the fast to express support for the remaining hunger strikers, singing songs, presenting roses and praying together.

“These young people are really steadfast in their pursuit for justice,” said Franciscan Br. Cristofer Fernández, a conservation biologist and climate justice coordinator for Catholic Climate Covenant, who visited the hunger strikers.

Molly Sutter, 24, who lives at Bethlehem Farm, a Catholic community in southern West Virginia, was among those who joined the solidarity fast.

Sara Meza, a student at San Diego State University who is a member of the San Diego Diocese’s creation care ministry, offered a prayer for “those in the halls of power, that the heart might be transformed, that they might take bold action to protect our common home.”

The 24-hour fast coincided with the gathering of around 120 heads of state for a two-day leaders’ summit at the start of COP26. Pope Francis sent a message to the summit, urging the heads of state to stop delaying the measures needed to stem global warming, while faith groups descended on Glasgow to press for bold climate action and for climate justice, especially for those already suffering from the impacts of global warming.

For Karen Campion, there is no question that her brother is leading her family to fight for climate justice. 

After the virtual vigil, she said she sees her brother’s hunger strike as a logical step in the development of his commitment to climate justice, from working to reduce his individual climate footprint to taking a public stand on the global climate crisis.

Campion said she was moved to tears during the virtual vigil, especially by prayers for the species and ecosystems that already have been lost and the people, especially the most vulnerable, whose lives have been upended by a warming climate. 

While climate action has both political and scientific dimensions, only a spiritual dimension can “capture the enormity of this period we are in,” she said. “It’s sort of beautiful that we are doing this on All Saints’ Day.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/more-250-people-fast-solidarity-climate-hunger-strikers-dc

Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew says young people can ‘save democracy and our planet’ 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame Oct. 28. During an academic convocation in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart the Eastern Orthodox Church leader said climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are interrelated crises. Notre Dame’s president, Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins, is at left. (University of Notre Dame/Matt Cashore)

Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are interrelated crises that challenge churches to respond with both faith and science, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said Oct. 28 at the University of Notre Dame, where he received an honorary doctorate.

“It is our obligation before God, neighbor and creation to assume responsibility for addressing climate change and suppressing the pandemic,” the Eastern Orthodox Church leader told his audience.

Speaking directly to students in the basilica where the ceremony took place after vespers, Bartholomew said young people offer “the optimism that we so yearn for, the readiness to accept change and sacrifice, the capacity to overcome polarization and partisanship, the conviction to be catalysts of social and ecological justice as well as, quite frankly, the opportunity to save democracy and our planet.”

He added, “May God grant your generation the necessary wisdom and courage to continue leading this charge and mandate.”

Bartholomew, who was an early leader in the Christian ecology movement and has bonded with Pope Francis over environmental issues, is on a weeklong visit to the United States that began Oct. 23.

In September, he joined Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury in calling for strong measures on climate change so that future generations can live on a healthy planet. And on Oct. 4, he was among nearly 40 faith leaders who joined Francis at the Vatican to present an appeal for urgent action to world leaders who will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 1-2 at the opening of the United Nations climate conference, COP26.

In his remarks at Notre Dame, Bartholomew stressed the importance of making political decisions based on scientific evidence and the need for people of faith to work together toward solutions.

“We faith leaders are called humbly and patiently to cooperate with leaders in the scientific and academic worlds, as well as the corporate and political domains,” he said, adding that “creation care brings us divided, insulated believers before a common task that we must face together.”

The patriarch also called for ecocide — the mass damage to or destruction of ecosystems — to be declared an international crime.

“As human beings, we surely understand that we cannot hurt our brothers and sisters, that there are moral, social and legal consequences” to actions, he said. “Why, then, do we not grasp the fact that there should be moral, social and legal repercussions when we harm God’s creation?”

Both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic raise “ultimate questions about life and death, sickness and suffering, as well as health care and justice,” the patriarch said. In addressing the dual crises, he added, churches play a crucial role with their interrelated messages of faith in God and love of neighbor, symbolized by the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross.

During the pandemic, the church has learned the “important but a humbling lesson” that “religion must function and serve in connection with, and never in isolation from, science,” he added. “Faith alone will not overcome the problems of our time, but the challenges of our time will certainly not be overcome without faith.”

Protecting the environment, he said, “involves constant pain and forgiveness, unrelenting preference and priority for what we truly value, for what truly matters.” It is through “a spiritual and moral response,” he added, that people of faith “become a healing and transformative presence among our neighbors and on our planet.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/eastern-orthodox-patriarch-bartholomew-says-young-people-can-save-democracy-and-our

As COP26 gathers, faith-based environmentalists fight ‘eco-grief’ 

Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, California, on Sept. 9, 2020. The blaze, part of the lightning-sparked North Complex, expanded rapidly as winds buffeted the region. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

There’s a word for climate disaster fatigue: It’s called “eco-grief.”

As the United Nations Climate Conference (known as COP26) gathers world leaders in Glasgow, Scotland, over the next two weeks to discuss climate change, and even Democrats in the United States try to cobble together a reed-slim coalition to pass significant climate change mitigation measures, people of faith long active in environmental advocacy haven’t succumbed to pessimism.

“I adamantly refuse to surrender to hopelessness,” wrote Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, in an email interview. Hayhoe, with author Bill McKibben, is participating in COP26, where President Joe Biden and other world leaders spoke Nov. 1 and a message from Pope Francis was presented Nov. 2.

For some climate change veterans, a positive perspective is central to their faith.

In the Sikh tradition, “we approach the challenges of the world in a spirit of optimism,” said environmental scientist Bandana Kaur Malik.

Collective efforts, she said, can have an enormous impact. “We’re actually here to give people hope, and to find that help. Even when things are darkest, if we are brave and see light within the situation, there will be more light.”

A Sikh’s attitude toward the environment, Kaur Malik said, is influenced by the words of founder Guru Nanak, who wrote, “Air is the Guru, Water the Father, And the Earth the Eminent Mother of all.”

Activists don’t understate the magnitude of the challenges of a global climate crisis. But responding to it is, they say, much more than a matter of self-preservation. It’s rooted in the central tenets of their faith traditions.

“It really is terrifying,” Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, a Modern Orthodox rabbi, said of the spate of recent climate news. “I think we have to start by embracing how terrifying this is, and how disappointing it is that this is all human-caused. Yet I remain very hopeful.”

That hope, said Yanklowitz, creator and president of Uri L’Tzedek (the Orthodox Social Justice movement) and the animal advocacy organization Shamayim, is based on the activism the climate movement has generated. “I see a revolution started, a spiritual revolution of people who are changing their lives and are working to change their communities,” he said.

Tori Goebel, a 27-year-old spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, said the people trying to have an impact start locally and are crucial in confronting climate change. “Having a trusted messenger, someone who is like you and shares similar interests and values, can go a long way. It’s important to connect climate change to people’s values.”

For Christians, said Goebel, the value is as simple as “biblical justice,” especially given that low-income, tribal, Indigenous and communities of color are facing the worst impacts of climate change right now. 

When talking about how to keep others from descending into pessimism about the planet, Goebel advised staying as positive as possible. “I think it’s important that we focus on that hopeful future we can create, instead of on scarcity and all the things you have to give up.”

Thirteen years ago, McKibben and others founded 350.org, an organization dedicated to building a global activist movement to promote a future without fossil fuels. But his faith, which has roots in mainline Protestantism, has been tested, said McKibben by email.

“I think we took a dark turn with Reagan, away from the idea that loving one’s neighbor is at the heart of our lives. That helps explain why we’ve done such a bad job of dealing with the existential threat climate change poses,” he said. 

Since then he has watched America “move towards this ugly libertarian idea that we should each look out for our own selves.”

Nonetheless, he finds solace, he said, in the Hebrew Scriptures’ Book of Job “and the idea that there was a time when humans were small compared to God/the natural world.”

James Rattling Leaf, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe who lives in western South Dakota, said Native Americans have been facing multiple challenges, including high infant mortality rates, the outsized impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of access to basics like clean drinking water as the result of a persistent drought.

 “Ultimately, we’re the ones on the front lines, when it comes to these issues in our backyard or region,” said Rattling Leaf, who runs a consulting firm while coordinating climate partnerships for the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance.

Rattling Leaf, who describes himself as a nondenominational “follower of Jesus,” said that while churches can play a part in promoting care for the planet, there is also a place for a theology of creation that honors the heritage and cultures of Indigenous peoples.

Members of the Lakota community, he said, don’t see themselves at the top of a hierarchy in the natural world. “We believe that we’re all part of it, and we have a responsibility to each other. We all learn from each other, take care of each other. When one is affected, that affects all of us.”

His faith gives him hope, said Rattling Leaf. But so does the increasing collaboration between tribal leaders, and of those leaders with scientists, educational institutions and other partners. 

“I’m just part of the group that wants to move us forward to some direction that helps our young people and our elders deal with the practical aspects (of climate change), not just planning, strategy or policy: How do you take care of Grandma when it’s 110 degrees outside,” he asked by way of example, “and she’s got no air conditioning or running water?”

Hayhoe, well known in Christian circles for explaining global warming in faith-friendly ways to those she terms “solution skeptics,” also has faith in the possibility of collective action on behalf of the planet. In her new book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, she writes about the “six Americas of global warming.” It is a primer for those still holding hope for change.

”This book is written for all of the rest of us, for every person over the past five years, and this numbers in the thousands, who has ever asked me, what gives you hope?” she said in a phone interview. “How do I talk to my family member, neighbor, colleague, elected official, boss about climate change in a way that makes a difference?”

Her Christian beliefs tell her, she said, that humans have a responsibility for all living things, and to love and care for those less fortunate.

“Climate change disproportionally affects the most marginalized and vulnerable people in the world,” she said. All major world religions share that ethic, she added. “I’m absolutely convinced that just about everybody already has a reason they need to care about climate change. “

But even the indefatigably hopeful Hayhoe has a warning for those who procrastinate on engaging with the realities of a warming world, comparing them to smokers advised by their doctors that they are risking dire consequences if they don’t quit.

“You have to, you have to do something now,” she said. “Because if you wait until you actually feel anything more than you are feeling now, it will be too late. So that’s kind of where we’re at.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/cop26-gathers-faith-based-environmentalists-fight-eco-grief

Scotland’s Catholic Church leads faith-based fossil fuel divestment ahead of COP26

Glasgow Green at the Kings Bridge entrance to the park in Glasgow, Scotland. The city is hosting the United Nations climate conference known as COP26 on Oct. 31-Nov. 12. (Unsplash/Phil Reid)
Glasgow Green at the Kings Bridge entrance to the park in Glasgow, Scotland. The city is hosting the United Nations climate conference known as COP26 on Oct. 31-Nov. 12. (Unsplash/Phil Reid)

As Scotland prepares to host a critical global summit on climate change, the country’s Catholic Church has divested its financial holdings from fossil fuels, which have powered decades of industrial growth but are also driving Earth’s temperatures to dangerous levels.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, along with all eight Scottish archdioceses and dioceses, announced their fossil-free commitment Oct. 26, just days before the United Nations climate conference known as COP26 will begin in Glasgow. That city’s mayor also announced divestment plans the same day.

The Scottish Catholic Church was among 72 faith institutions on six continents that announced their divestment plans as part of a joint effort organized by several environmentally focused religious coalitions. Thirty-seven of them — representing Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant traditions — are in the United Kingdom, which is leading COP26 jointly with Italy.

Together, the divesting faith communities manage more than $4.2 billion in assets, according to organizers, who said the Oct. 26 announcement was the largest religious-based divestment to date.

Galloway Bishop William Nolan, head of the Scottish bishops’ commission for justice and peace, which leads environmental initiatives, said in a statement, “The world is full of voices decrying the environmental crisis that we face.”

He said the bishops decided to join the multitrillion-dollar worldwide divestment movement because “speaking out is not enough, action is required.” Although some people argue that fossil fuel companies are necessary in the transition to renewable energy, he said, the act of divesting sends a signal “that the status quo is not acceptable.”

“Given the harm that the production and consumption of fossil fuels is causing to the environment and to populations in low-income countries, it was not right to profit from investment in these companies. Disinvestment is a sign that justice demands that we must move away from fossil fuels,” the Galloway bishop said.

Negotiations at COP26 are expected to center on meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and push countries toward sizable actions to shift rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy during this decade.

Before the U.N. climate summit begins, leaders of the G-20 nations, which produce 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, will try again to reach agreement on end dates for fossil fuel subsidies and a full phaseout of coal.

A May report from the International Energy Association, originally founded to protect oil supplies, stated that countries must immediately halt new oil, coal and gas development in order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and ultimately limit global warming to 1.5 by the end of the century.

COP26 must send “an unmistakable signal” to the financial world that the era of fossil fuels is ending, International Energy Association executive director Fatih Birol told a Catholic webinar in July.

An analysis this week by Bloomberg found that banks have facilitated nearly $4 trillion in financing for coal, oil and gas since the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015. So far in 2021, banks have provided $459 billion in fossil fuel financing, though perhaps in a sign of a shift, that’s been slightly surpassed by $463 billion in green investments.

Meanwhile, the divestment movement has mobilized more than 1,485 institutions with combined assets of $39 trillion away from investments in the fossil fuel industry. Recent additions include Harvard University — whose $42 billion endowment has long been a target of divestment advocates — and philanthropic giants MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation, the latter founded by the son of American auto pioneer Henry Ford.

During a webinar Oct. 26, leaders on divestment described the rapid growth of the campaign, which as of 2014 included just 181 institutions representing $50 billion in combined assets, as one of the biggest success stories of the climate movement. Looking forward, they called on investors not only to divest but to direct at least 5% of assets toward climate solutions and press companies in their portfolio to reduce total emissions to net zero by 2050.

“What we all know was once a movement led by small churches and liberal arts colleges is now a movement that’s been embraced by the biggest and most influential investors in the whole world,” said Richard Brooks, climate finance director for Stand.earth, listing the Vatican among them.

Overall, faith-based organizations represent more than 35% of all publicly divesting institutions.

Salesian Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, coordinator of the ecology and creation sector of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said in the webinar “we are delighted that the faith communities are leading this transformative journey.”

The Vatican has become increasingly vocal about the need to shift the world, and its investments, away from fossil fuels and toward renewable and sustainable sources of energy. Kureethadam said it has supported divestment through several initiatives, including recommending the step in its implementation guidelines for Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” Its forthcomng Laudato Si’ Action Platform also encourages Catholic institutions to end financing for coal, oil and gas, of which the vast majority of those reserves, the priest added, need to remain in the ground in order to achieve the Paris climate goals.

“The challenge is huge, but people are coming together, and we faith communities are willing to play our part on this journey,” Kureethadam said.

Thirty-six Catholic institutions were part of the latest in a series of joint divestment announcements, which have been coordinated since 2016 by a campaign of the Laudato Si’ Movement (formerly the Global Catholic Climate Movement).

The new divesting Catholic groups include 10 religious orders, five of them in the U.K.; Caritas Nepal; the justice and peace office of the Sydney Archdiocese; the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emily, Ireland; and the IDEPAS Peru health institute.

In addition, 18 local churches and one religious order of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine pledged that their investments will be fossil free.

Five Catholic organizations in the U.S. were part of the announcement, including the Midwest Province of the Jesuits; the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania; and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Two other U.S. Catholic universities — the University of San Diego and Loyola University Chicago — committed to divesting in the weeks before the joint faith announcement.

The University of San Diego’s new investment policy outlines plans to shed fossil fuel holdings from its $818 million long-term investment pool, which includes its $693 million endowment, by 2035 — the year the university has committed to become carbon neutral.

Since 2016, the university has reduced its exposure to fossil fuels from over 9% to 3% and directed $60 million toward investments that take environmental, social and governance, or ESG, considerations into account, chief financial officer Katy Roig said.

She told EarthBeat that the university revised its investment policy to align it with Laudato Si’, and the document now includes passages from the encyclical, including that climate change is happening and disproportionately affects already disadvantaged communities.

At Loyola University Chicago, students and faculty have pressed for divestment for years, with the student government passing a resolution in February 2020 that called for the Jesuit school to rid its $1.6 billion endowment of fossil fuels. That move finally came in October, with the university’s new sustainable investment policy that also directed its financial managers to integrate environmental, social and governance considerations into its decisions.

Poorvi Modi, a senior who served as the student representative on the investment policy committee of the board of trustees, said she was “really satisfied” with the university’s decision.

“The student demand was just for divestment from fossil fuels, and we took that a step forward by making it a whole ESG consideration,” she said. Modi added that having a student on the committee improved communication with students and ensured that their perspective was represented in the deliberations.

Katie Wyatt, Loyola chief investment officer, told EarthBeat that the policy “has been a work in progress for a long time.”

It was accelerated, she added, by a request for the board’s committees to review a document from the Jesuits’ Midwest Province, called “Go Forth!“, that focused on applying the order’s apostolic preferences, including caring for our common home, to all dimensions of higher education.

“What we’re really trying to achieve here is an investment policy consistent with the whole of Jesuit mission and values,” she said.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/scotlands-catholic-church-leads-faith-based-fossil-fuel-divestment-ahead-cop26

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis growing as economy collapses: UN

A woman cooks inside a tent at a temporary camp for people displaced by the conflict, which has been inundated after heavy rains, in Yemen’s southwestern province of Taiz [File: Ahmad Al-Bash/AFP]

Yemen’s economy is collapsing, its humanitarian crisis is worsening, and the conflict in the Arab world’s poorest nation is growing more violent, the United Nations’ deputy humanitarian chief has said.

The grim remarks by Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Rajasingham came during a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday. More than 20 million Yemenis – two-thirds of the population – need humanitarian assistance, but aid agencies, he said, “are, once again, starting to run out of money”.

Aid agencies are now helping nearly 13 million people across the country, about 3 million more than just a few months ago, Rajasingham added. “Our best assessment is that this expansion has considerably pushed back the immediate risk of large-scale famine.”

But he warned that aid agencies don’t have enough money to keep going at this scale and “in the coming weeks and months, up to 4 million people could see their food aid reduced” and “by the end of the year, that number could rise to 5 million people”.

“We are calling on everyone to do everything possible to sustain the momentum we’ve built over the last several months and keep famine at bay,” Rajasingham said.

Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, in an effort to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power and threw its support behind his government.

Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a deadlock and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The US has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.

In early 2020, the Houthis launched an offensive in the mostly government-held Marib province that has cost the lives of thousands of young people and left thousands of displaced civilians living in constant fear of violence and having to move again.

On Thursday, tribal leaders and Yemeni officials said that fighting over Marib in the last 24 hours killed at least 140 fighters on both sides. The clashes were taking place in the districts of Abdiya and al-Jubah, they said.

At the briefing to the Security Council, Rajasingham said the Houthis “intensified their brutal offensive in Marib, taking more territory there and in neighbouring parts of the southern province of Shabwa”.

Ongoing fighting

He also pointed to clashes between rival armed groups earlier this month in the southern city of Aden – where Hadi’s government set up headquarters after the Houthis pushed them out of Sanaa and the north – and continued fighting, shelling and airstrikes in northwest Saada and western Hajjah and Hodeida provinces.

In September, 235 civilians were killed or injured, the second-highest figure in two years, and fighting in Marib is taking “a particularly heavy civilian toll”, with almost 10,000 people displaced in September, the second-highest figure in two years, Rajasingham said.

The new UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, who took up the post last month, told the council that he has held meetings with government and Houthi officials, as well as key regional and international officials focused on how to move towards a political solution to restore peace in Yemen.

“The gap in trust between warring parties is wide and growing,” he said in a virtual briefing. Grundberg said he made clear that while progress should be made on urgent humanitarian and economic issues, urgent political talks without preconditions are essential to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.

“Let us not fool ourselves, this will be a laborious and complicated task that will take time but it must take place,” Grundberg said. “The past weeks have illustrated the tension between the pace of the war and the economic collapse on one hand, and the time needed to devise and consult on a feasible way forward, on the other.”

Rajasingham reiterated that Yemen’s economic collapse “is driving most needs in the country – including the risk of famine”.

Yemen imports almost everything, he said, and the Yemeni rial is trading around 1,270 rials to the dollar in Aden, nearly six times higher than before the war, and fewer goods are reaching the country’s ports. Commercial food imports to the key ports of Hodeida and Saleef were eight percent less than last year’s average in September, and “fuel imports were an alarming 64 percent lower,” he said.

He urged immediate steps to stem the country’s economic collapse, including injections of foreign exchange through the Central Bank which would quickly bring down prices, as they have done in the past, as well as fully opening all ports, lifting import restrictions at Hodeida and Saleef, and paying civil servant salaries.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/14/yemens-humanitarian-crisis-growing-as-economy-collapses-un

No end in sight for deforestation, as national goals and funding fall short

Smoke billows from a fire in this aerial view showing a deforested plot of the Amazon rainforest in Rondonia State, Brazil September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

KUALA LUMPUR, – Countries are spending only a fraction of the nearly $500 billion needed each year to stop tree loss and restore forests worldwide to help meet climate and nature goals, researchers warned on Tuesday.

An annual report on the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests – backed by more than 200 countries, firms and green groups – found the sustained reductions in forest loss needed to meet its 2030 target to end deforestation are highly unlikely near-term.

This year’s report focused on finance and forestry in national climate action plans submitted for the 2015 Paris climate accord, finding that many governments have yet to set specific forest protection goals under that pact.

The progress report by 28 civil society and research groups also found that, since 2010, countries have invested only between 0.5% and 5% of the estimated $460 billion per year needed to conserve, manage and revive the planet’s forests.

Michael Allen Brady of the Center for International Forestry Research, which contributed to the report, said current funding was “only a drop in the bucket of what we need”.

“By ramping up investments in forest protection and sustainable management, the world could reduce emissions while securing clean air, water, fibre, food, livelihoods and biodiversity,” the scientist added in a statement.

Cutting down forests has major implications for global goals to curb climate change, as trees absorb about a third of carbon emissions, which they release if they rot or are burned.

In 2020, tropical forest losses around the world equalled the size of the Netherlands, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Under the Paris climate accord, about 195 countries agreed to limit the rise in global average temperatures this century to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

Researchers analysed the national goals set for that agreement by 32 countries with the most potential to reduce carbon emissions through halting deforestation, improving forest management and planting new trees – including Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report found ambition was low, with only 10 nations having set quantitative targets, while about a quarter of the total said their targets could only be met if they received international financial support.

“What we can see from these national climate plans is that the ambition falls short of the potential,” said the report’s lead author Franziska Haupt, a managing partner at advisory firm Climate Focus.

Besides boosting funding, wealthy commodity-consuming countries should partner with developing nations to tackle deforestation and introduce legislation to clean up their supply chains, Haupt told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She also called for public subsidies to be diverted away from activities that contribute to deforestation, such as commercial agriculture and fossil fuels, and into greener projects that empower indigenous and local communities.

The report did praise efforts to tackle deforestation in some countries, such as Vietnam’s streamlined land-use planning and regulation, and bans on illegal timber trading and clearing of old-growth forests in Laos and Indonesia.

In a separate report published in the journal Global Change Biology on Tuesday, researchers identified the lowest-cost solutions involving land that countries could adopt to cut planet-heating emissions and meet their climate pledges.

Roughly half of those cost-effective emissions reductions would come from protecting, restoring and improving management of forests and other ecosystems, such as mangroves and peatlands, they found.

Changes to farming practices, switching consumer diets to more sustainable and healthy foods, and reducing food waste could also play a major part, the study added.

https://news.trust.org/item/20211012045854-0146k/

Pope to lawmakers: Climate change requires quick consensus

Pope Francis arrives to meet with the participants at the interparliamentary meeting on the U.N. climate conference, COP26, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican Oct. 9. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis arrives to meet with the participants at the interparliamentary meeting on the U.N. climate conference, COP26, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican Oct. 9. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Vatican City — Pope Francis called on lawmakers worldwide Oct. 9 to overcome “the narrow confines” of partisan politics to quickly reach consensus on fighting climate change.

The pope addressed parliamentarians who were in Rome for a preparatory meeting before the annual U.N. climate conference, which begins in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 31.

Francis referred to a joint appeal he and other religious leaders signed Oct. 4 that calls for governments to commit to ambitious goals at the U.N. conference, which experts consider a critical opportunity to tackle the threat of global warming.

“To meet this challenge, everyone has a role to play,” Francis told the visiting lawmakers from many countries. “That of political and government leaders is especially important, and indeed crucial.”

“This demanding change of direction will require great wisdom, foresight and concern for the common good: in a word, the fundamental virtues of good politics,” Francis said.

Francis said earlier he intended to participate in the upcoming conference, but the Vatican announced Oct. 8 that he would not attend and the Vatican delegation would be led by the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

No explanation was given, but the 84-year-old pope underwent intestinal surgery in July.

The pope expressed hope Oct. 9 that the lawmakers’ efforts at the climate conference and beyond “will be illuminated by the two important principles of responsibility and solidarity.”

“We owe this to the young, to future generations,” he said.

Caring for humanity’s “common home,” Francis said, “is not just a matter of discouraging and penalizing improper practices, but also, and above all, of concretely encouraging new paths to pursue” that are better suited to climate-protection objectives and to contributing “to the positive outcome of COP26.”

Before his speech, Francis gave a private audience to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“His Holiness’s leadership is a source of joy and hope for Catholics and for all people, challenging each of us to be good stewards of God’s creation, to act on climate, to embrace the refugee, the immigrant and the poor, and to recognize the dignity and divinity in everyone,” Pelosi said in a statement after her audience with Francis.

She called the pontiff’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, exhorting people to protect the environment, “a powerful challenge to the global community to act decisively on the climate crisis with special attention to the most vulnerable communities.”

During their encounter, Pelosi expressed gratitude “for the immense moral clarity and urgency that His Holiness continues to bring to the climate crisis,” the statement said.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/pope-lawmakers-climate-change-requires-quick-consensus

Climate change: Vulnerable nations call for ’emergency pact’

A woman stands in the doorway of her flooded home in Savanne Desole on the outskirts of the city of Gonaives, Haiti
Getty Images

The countries most vulnerable to climate change are calling for an “emergency pact” to tackle rising temperatures.

The group wants all countries to agree radical steps to avoid “climate catastrophe” at the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

Green campaigners are urging a postponement of the gathering, citing problems with vaccines for delegates.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) says the event is critical and cannot wait.

Representing some 1.2 billion people, the CVF consists of countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

The group has been key in pushing the rest of the world to accept the idea of keeping the rise in global temperatures to under 1.5C this century.

This was incorporated into the Paris agreement in 2015.

Recent research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that the threshold will be passed in little over a decade at current rates of carbon emissions.

In less than two months, global leaders will gather in Glasgow for COP26, the most critical meeting on climate change since Paris.

Ahead of the Glasgow meeting, the CVF has issued a manifesto for what the conference must deliver to keep the planet safe and protect the most vulnerable.

Environmental groups have suggested postponing the meeting, on the grounds that vaccine distribution is inequitable and that delegates from poorer countries face huge bills for quarantine hotels when they arrive in the UK.

However, the CVF member states insist the meeting must go ahead in person, and are calling for support and “facilitated access” to ensure inclusive participation.

The UK government has responded to these calls by agreeing to pay the quarantine hotel expenses of any delegate, observer or media from a developing country.

The vulnerable group says that progress on climate change has stalled and COP26 should move forward with what it terms a “climate emergency pact”.

This would see every country put forward a new climate plan every year between now and 2025.

At present, signatories of the Paris agreement are only obliged to put forward new plans every five years.

The vulnerable nations say that richer countries must fulfil their obligations to deliver $100bn in climate finance per year over the 2020-24 period.

The CVF nations want this money to be split 50-50 between cutting carbon and helping countries adapt to the threat posed by rising temperatures.

The countries also want the UK to “take full responsibility” for this aspect of the negotiations, saying it is vital to restore confidence in the Paris pact.

Among the other areas that the most vulnerable nations want to see progress on is the question of debt-for-climate swaps.

Many of the world’s poorest countries have large debt burdens, and these have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has stretched finances even further.

In a debt-for-climate swap, a country can reduce what it owes to international creditors by directing the debt service payments to fund renewable energy or greater protection for nature.

One such restructuring was recently announced by Belize where the debt money will now go to support marine conservation projects instead.

“Vulnerable countries have unique needs – and public-private collaboration will be key to addressing them,” said Nigel Topping, who’s the UK’s high-level climate action champion for COP26.

“Whether it is in debt for nature swaps such as the recent Belize announcement or in increasing public sector capability to structure investment projects to attract private finance, the aim is to accelerate progress in this area so that 2022 becomes the year of climate action solidarity.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58477926

Meet the Catholic nun who has helped Haitians through multiple earthquakes

HeridosHaiti CatholicReliefServices 091018
Victims of the Oct. 6, 2018 earthquake in Haiti./ Catholic Relief Services.

Sister Marilyn Marie Minter was praying when she felt an earthquake rock Haiti.

“My chair began to shake,” she told EWTN News In Depth on Aug. 27. “And I’m going, ‘What the heck is going on?’”

As one of four Felician Sisters of North America serving in Haiti, Sr. Marilyn detailed her experience of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country on Aug. 14. That morning, she and her Felician sisters were at their convent in Jacmel, 80 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter in Les Cayes. They ran.

“Sister Inga, who’s in the room next to me, she yells out, ‘Get out of the house quickly! It’s an earthquake! Get out! Now! Fast!’” Sr. Marilyn said. “Because our other two sisters that are with us, this is their first experience ever with an earthquake.” 

The four sisters – Sr. Marilyn, Sr. Inga Borko, Sr. Mary Izajasza Rojek, and Sr. Mary Julitta Kurek – run a mission complex that includes a mobile medical clinic, a pharmacy, a volunteer house, an activity center, a playground, a computer lab for students, and a kitchen that feeds nearly 100 children.

Internationally, the Felician Sisters represent more than 1,000 religious women who practice a Franciscan way of life across four continents. Founded by Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska in 1855, they began in Poland and arrived in North America in 1874. 

In 2009, the Felician Sisters of North America formed Our Lady of Hope Province, which consists of eight Felician provinces across the U.S. and Canada. They strive to live out their mission to “cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world.” This means ministering to children, at-risk youth, college students, seniors, individuals with disabilities, those in prison and detention centers, and others who are marginalized and living in poverty.

Sr. Marilyn first traveled with her order to Haiti in 2010, after the country suffered a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000 people. They returned in 2012, and, in 2018, they dedicated their mission to serve Haitians in four core areas: healing the sick, providing clean water, feeding the hungry, and educating tomorrow’s leaders. 

When the sisters realized they felt an earthquake, they ran out of the house. Sr. Marilyn remembered hearing yelling and screaming from their neighbors. After waiting outside for roughly 20 minutes, the sisters returned to their house and wrote to their superior in Pennsylvania to assure her of their safety.

Others in Haiti weren’t so lucky. The earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and more than 300 people are still missing. According to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency, the natural disaster left 12,268 injured and nearly 53,000 houses destroyed. World Vision reported that another 77,000 homes were damaged, along with 60 places of worship, 20 schools, 25 health centers, and 48 foster homes that care for 1,700 children.

“We heard how devastating it was in Les Cayes, Jeremie, and other villages west [of] us,” Sr. Marilyn said. 

Twenty people died when St. Famille du Toirac Church near Les Cayes collapsed. In Les Anglais, the earthquake ruined Immaculate Conception Church, killing 17 people younger than 25 years old. 

“A church in Les Cayes was having a baptism, and we saw photos of these dead children in their white outfits,” she told OSV. “It makes your heart cry.”

Even after the earthquake, the danger wasn’t over for the sisters: At 2 p.m., they felt an aftershock and ran outside once more.

Three hours later, Caritas announced that it was collecting emergency materials for those directly impacted by the earthquake. The sisters sprang into action.

“We gathered what we had in our container – and our container was getting pretty low as it was – but we gathered medications, bandages, surgical gloves,” Sr. Marilyn told EWTN News In Depth. “We gathered clothing, towels, sheets, shoes that we had left over and we boxed them.” 

Sr. Marilyn spoke from Lodi, New Jersey, where she was gathering supplies to bring back to Haiti, including clothing, medications, and 50 buckets for filtering clean water.

“With a bucket and filter, you can take rainwater and you can filter that water and give them purified water,” Sr. Marilyn emphasized. “You give one bucket and filter to a woman – a family – and then she gives clean water to three other families. You can have sustainability. You can have empowerment. And you can have independence.”

OSV reported that the sisters are currently raising money for Haiti to buy supplies, including medical and school materials, hygiene products, bedding, and baby items. Sr. Marilyn is also hoping to send laptop computers or tablets back to Haiti. Donations can be sent to Felician Sisters of North America, 871 Mercer Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, with “Haiti” in the memo. They are also accepting donations online at feliciansistersna.org.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/248869/meet-the-catholic-nun-who-has-helped-haitians-through-multiple-earthquakes