Diocese of Texas Represented at COP26 – Reflections as it Approaches its Conclusion

Edited version of an article submitted by Ellie Singer

This past Friday marked the final day of COP26, the UN Conference on Climate Change. As I reflect upon the past two weeks, I am simultaneously intimidated by the peril God’s creation faces and inspired by millions of human beings taking action around the globe. Climate is the most pressing issue of our century; I am 25 years old, and I often wonder if our planet will support human life by the time (God willing) I turn 75. Creation cries out for intervention, and I am overjoyed to proclaim that our church is answering that call.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined our delegation in worship last Saturday, and in his sermon he broke John 3:16 open in an astounding, fresh way. You can view his sermon here, and I encourage you to share it. God so loved the world, Bishop Curry reminds us, that he gave his only son. I pray that we might love creation with even a fraction of God’s love; our hope is in the Lord to grant us radical generosity and the willingness to make holy sacrifices.

Our Delegation

In the name of God’s love, the Episcopal Church sent 24 delegates to join member states, advocacy groups, and activists from around the globe. UN officials and negotiators have  spent two weeks discussing commitments regarding the future of our planet, and we are among the advocate groups invited to do official advocacy. The main conference took place in Glasgow, Scotland; however, due to COVID-19 precautions, our delegation has joined virtually. This has been a blessing in many ways.

By joining virtually, we were able to send a larger delegation from more diverse backgrounds, forming a team of Episcopalians across countries, language, race, age, heritage, gender, orders, and means. Learn more about the delegates in this slideshow. Our digital engagement also prevented our burning of thousands of gallons of jet fuel in our travels. Transporting our delegation to Glasgow round-trip would have emitted more than 150,000 lbs of CO2 in flights alone. I hope that our success as a virtual delegation can be a model for others when they consider the environmental cost of gathering in person, whether by plane or by car.

Our Work

Our delegation’s primary goals in COP26 are to advocate, learn, and return to our communities. We advocate for the official policy priorities of our church, standing in solidarity with smaller nations, such as those in the Pacific Ocean, who already feel the leading-edge effects of climate change. We reflected on Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 

We especially lift Indigenous voices who have done vital work for millenia caring for creation but who are too often prevented from sitting at the table with decision-makers. Our official UN event, “Making Peace with Nature: Heeding the Call of Indigenous Peoples” highlighted powerful new coalitions of religious and indigenous leaders from diverse traditions to protect nature and the climate.‚Äö√Ñ√òWatch the event here.

Throughout the conference, we formed teams to track official “workstreams.” These include adaptation, climate finance, mitigation, and loss and damage. I took part in the climate finance team, diving deep into why less-developed countries struggle to secure financing for mitigation or adaptation projects, the vital role of grant-giving rather than investment for profit, and the future of ethical pension investments.

While our team has already presented our findings at an official workstream dialogue event, if you are interested in learning more about how we find faith, finance, and climate to relate, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you are interested in learning more about another workstream, I would be happy to connect you as well.

Our delegation also met with congressional representatives to advocate for the United States to invest in clean energy, methane emissions reductions, and contributions to the Green Climate Fund, among other policy priorities. I worked in advocacy teams who spoke to Sen. John Hickenlooper’s office, as well as Rep. Lizzie Fletcher’s office. She is my Representative in Houston, and it was a powerful experience to take local legislative action as a lived extension of my faith. I encourage Episcopalians across our diocese to contact your representatives regularly, to advocate on behalf of not only ourselves but the marginalized.

Throughout the conference, our delegation has gathered regularly in prayer. Bishop Marc Andrus has led us in meditations each morning; the final morning prayer took place Nov. 12 at 7 a.m. CST.  

What’s Next?

If you are interested in learning more about delegates’ experiences and calls to action, many of my fellow delegates have shared their reflections in articles you can read here.

Please pray for our delegation, our church, and the work of climate action. More than anything, the greatest barrier to change is silence. Every one of us can take climate action simply by opening conversations, with friends, family, siblings in faith, neighbors; the Holy Spirit is moving, and all we must do is follow.

Ellie Singer was chosen to represent the Diocese of Texas and the Episcopal Church as a member of the Episcopal Church Delegation to COP26. For additional information, contact connected@epicenter.org.


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