March 21, 2016

OTTAWA - Faith communities must stay hopeful and engaged to ensure governments live up to climate change commitments, says the leader of the United Church of Canada's delegation to last year's Paris climate change conference.

Mardi Tindal, the former moderator of the United Church of Canada, said since Paris, she is still "bumping into a lot of denial about climate change."

Tindal was a panel member March 9 at a discussion of how faith communities can follow up to the Paris conference. She appeared via Skype to reduce her carbon footprint.

She praised Canada's commitment to holding the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"We now have, basically, to hold the government accountable," she said.

Tindal had four suggestions for next steps:

  • First, faith communities must "accept responsibility to contribute to a climate of hope," she said. She encounters many who say, "It's too little too late," and fall into despair.
  • The "best hope lies in our quiet and determined resolve" of communities to help each other adapt, she said.
  • Progress "cannot be taken for granted. We have to be part of the public engagement," to encourage politicians, she said.
  • Second, faith communities can also provide spiritual nurture and prayer on combatting climate change.
  • Third, faith communities must "take seriously the need to live with integrity," Tindal said. That means reducing their own carbon emissions as much as they expect the government to do.
  • "We have to contemplate a completely renewable, non-carbon economy by 2050," she said.
  • Churches must reduce their own carbon emissions and deal with leaky buildings and transportation, she said.
  • They must also help people in the Global South who suffer disproportionately from climate change caused by the North. "The South does not have the resources there to adapt to decarbonization."
  • Fourth, faith communities must work with and encourage those working in government and in civil society groups to have an "ethical conversation," Tindal said. Working together will help us all figure out the next steps. Those conversations must also include people in the oil and gas industry.

Tindal urged faith communities to offer encouragement and to celebrate progress instead of always criticizing.

"We are talking about a huge social transformation," she said.