Sunday night, people of all faiths gathered across the world for interfaith prayer vigils for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima. In 13 countries, participants in #LightForLima prayer gatherings joined together in solidarity for collective song and prayer in hope that the negotiators at the UNFCCC will make decisions that will preserve the state of the earth for future generations.
Organized by the international multi-faith organization OurVoices, groups in Sydney, Ottawa, New York, London, and Washington, D.C., and elsewhere joined together to light up solar lamps and candles to share hope for successful negotiations in Lima. Desmond Tutu provided groups with this powerful prayer which was read at vigils across the globe last night:
Holy God, earth and air and water are your creation, and the web of life is yours.
Have mercy on us in the face of climate chaos.
Help us to be keepers of your Earth:
to simplify our lives,
to reduce our use of energy,
to share the resources you have given us,
to raise our voices for justice
and to bear the cost of change.
We kindle this “light for Lima” as we pray for the climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru.
The #LightForLima prayer vigils were of special importance last night for two reasons.
First, a major Typhoon known as Hagupit ripped through the Philippines over the weekend. According to sources, more than 30 million people have already been impacted by this cyclone that left 24 dead and forced at least 900,000 people to evacuate their homes.
This is the third storm of its kind to strike the island nation. Last year alone, Typhoon Haiyan killed 6,300 people and was “the most powerful storm to ever make landfall.” Storms of this intensity will only continue to become sources of danger for developing countries as the planet warms and sea levels rise.
Let us pray that this tragedy serves as a tangible reminder for those leaders who are debating the technicalities of climate negotiations. Our changing weather patterns affect the “least of these” in developing countries at a disproportionate rate and their well-being must be a central focus on the UNCCC talks.
Second, the optimistic beginning of the Lima climate discussions is now coming up against realistic roadblocks in negotiations. Conflict has risen between developed and developing countries over whether the “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs) for each country will have mandatory emissions cuts. For developing countries, mandatory emission cuts have potential to limit industrial sovereign growth. However, for more developed countries such as the U.S. and China, mandatory emissions cuts are the only feasible way to enact emissions reduction.
The target year that countries will begin reducing carbon emissions have also been a point of contention in the negotiations. 2025 or 2030? The United States believes that 2025 gives countries an earlier opportunity to begin reaching their targets. Japan recommends that 2030 will provide investors with symbolism that world economy must shift toward a low-carbon economy. A decision has not yet been reached.
As the Lima Conference enters its second and last week of discussion, prayers for understanding, open communication, and compassionate compromise are absolutely necessary if the negotiation process has hope of progressing forward.
In the spirit of the hundreds around the world who gathered on Sunday, I hope that as Christians, we continue to keep the Lima Climate negotiations in our prayers. Do not let this light burn out. Keep the #LightForLima alive. The earth can’t afford any more darkness.
Kaeley McEvoy is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.