Virginia Jealous (West Australia Regional Meeting) reflects on an Asia-West Pacific Section webinar
In April 2019, twenty or so Friends from different time zones and countries joined Lindsey Fielder Cook (QUNO Geneva) and Susanna Mattingly (FWCC, London) in a webinar. This was exactly what it sounds like: a seminar conducted in real time via the internet. It provided an extensive overview of current issues in the climate change sphere, and offered an encouraging view of Quakers’ roles within it.
First, we reminded ourselves what and who the acronyms stood for. Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) is the global network to which many Quaker meetings and churches belong. Because FWCC is a worldwide organisation, it holds recognised accreditation that allows Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) to be involved as an ‘influencing agency’ at the United Nations. QUNO has an office at both the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council.
Closer to home, the webinar was coordinated and hosted by Ronis Chapman, Secretary of the Asia-West Pacific Section (AWPS) of FWCC – this is the section to which Australia Yearly Meeting belongs. Its purpose was to explain FWCC’s increasing focus on sustainability throughout the Quaker world and how, as a region, we might contribute. E-participants in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, India and Japan attended.
We learned about FWCC’s role in global negotiations on climate change. Lindsey Fielder Cook described how QUNO staff create and use opportunities to talk with diplomats, negotiators and scientists from many nations, focussing on last December’s COP24: the informal name for the “24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)”. The conference was intended to provide an implementation strategy or “Rulebook” for the Paris Agreement, and to strengthen the resolve of countries in reducing their greenhouse gases. The results were mixed. While there was less commitment from developed countries for greater finance and mitigation strategies, there were some new financial pledges for various climate funds. Common ways to measure emissions and assess global mitigation efforts have been developed, but there was less focus on human rights and the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples. Clearly, how you define the results of the conference depends on your perspective.
Susanna Mattingly outlined her role as the Sustainability Officer at FWCC and also focussed on the significance of the COP 24. Susanna’s work aims to amplify the voice of Quakers, in the context of our long-standing reputation for bridging the gap between personal and political action. She attended many Civil Society side-events, including an inter-faith co-ordination working group. This hopes to better align and communicate the voice and action of faith groups on climate change, and to build political will to mitigate its effects.
Susanna also works on developing a coherent message about climate change that speaks to the wide spectrum of Quaker traditions. She spoke, for example, about the benefits of coming together to develop common approaches to climate change, recognising that while Friends come from different theological positions, we face a shared concern of caring for the earth. Finding a way to articulate this together is offering a model for all Friends to find common ground.
Lindsey reinforced that awareness and the level of concern about climate change are shifting rapidly. There’s increased attention to how humans live on the planet, and a growing concern of many people to leave a suitable legacy. Building a new and sustainable economic system is another emerging priority—perhaps Quakers can play a role by pushing the boundaries here. A human rights, peace and justice emphasis – i.e. the right to a healthy environment – is another area of focus. The importance of inclusive solutions, rather than imposed solutions, is also an increasing focus.
Both Susanna and Lindsey asked us as AWPS to share our resources and stories of actions with them: Susanna Mattingly and Lindsey Fielder Cook. Our stories are valuable to them, giving them inspiration and energy to continue in their work. We heard, for example, from Lindsey that Quakers in the UK are involved with the burgeoning Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement and are widely acknowledged for their long experience of considered decision-making and non-violent protest action. It was similarly encouraging for Lindsey to hear that Quakers in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia are involved with the gathering XR movement here.
It is also very useful for Lindsey and Susanna to be able to quote true-life examples of climate change impacts, and of actions real people are taking which demonstrate community concern. They tell us that negotiators easily lose sight of the ‘real people’ – that’s us – and that actual stories help ground them.
Do you have a story to tell?
A Negotiator’s Toolkit is particularly useful: https://quno.org/resource/2018/4/negotiators-toolkit-second-edition
It provides a short, coherent line of argument for each of the arguments that can arise in discussing climate change. Highly recommended.