Ban Ki-moon's Climate Altar Call | Sojourners

Ban Ki-moon's Climate Altar Call

Reuters reported today that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is starting his drum beat to gets heads of state to his emergency climate conference in New York at the end of the month.

“Ban wants heads of state at a Sept. 23 gathering in New York to outline how their countries will contribute to a mutual goal to contain rising temperatures," said Selwin Hart, the Barbadian diplomat helping to spearhead the conference. The final deal is due to be signed in Paris in 2015, according to Reuters.

This one-day, “leaders-only” Climate Summit is somewhat unprecedented. U.N. climate negotiation meetings are usually called by the executive secretary of the UN’s climate caucus (UNFCCC) and attended by directors of environmental agencies. Ki-moon is switching things up because, as we’ve learned, effective policy to reverse global warming is about economics, not science or technology.  

“You don’t control economic policy at national level if you’re an environment minister,” said Michael Jacobs, a former climate change advisor to the U.K. government.  

Ki-moon wants to “re-set” the acrimonious atmosphere that resulted in such poor outcomes at COP/15, held five years ago in Copenhagen. He wants world leaders to personally bring him their boldest pledges for combating carbon pollution, and their most innovative strategies for climate resilience, all held in a moral framework of addressing poverty and inequity.  

This is not an ugly, lowest-common-denominator negotiation—it’s an altar call, and the UN General Secretary wants the whole world to be his witnesses.  

Moon may get more than even he bargained for. The Peoples’ Climate March, on Sept. 21, will bring thousands of people into the streets of New York during the Summit for the world’s largest climate event and host hundreds of companion events worldwide. On Sept 21-22, the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change will bring representatives from religious communities around the world—including Sojourners’ Jim Wallis—to show a united spiritual front committed to reversing our climate damage.  

These “people power” actions serve multiple purposes. One is to witness the pledges by world leaders, and hold them accountable. Another is to remind the U.N. and world leaders that their best efforts, even if they were to achieve them, fall short of what the science says is needed to keep the planet cool enough for human life to thrive.  

Once again, humanity needs a “Hail Mary” pass. The U.N.’s most ambitious climate targets (many of which have already been weakened) aim for levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas levels around 450 ppm of CO2 equivalent—what scientists have identified as a "high-risk" goal. The low-risk, conservative goal—where we get a planet that’s healthy for children and other living things—is 350 ppm or lower.  

We are all acting together because of our sacred trust. I’m calling on all prayer-warriors and miracle-makers. Your time is now.  

Rose Marie Berger is a Sojourners senior associate editor. Read more about the Climate Summit in the Sept-Oct issue of Sojourners magazine.

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