Knitting together faith and justice during COP26

As COP26 begins, Gershon Nimbalker reflects on the urgent need to listen to voices calling for more action on climate change and the hope he takes from those weaving their God given call to pursue justice into powerful action.

In the struggle to see ambitious climate action in these lands now called Australia, it’s often felt like one step forward, two steps back. Today though, I’m feeling hopeful.

Today marks the start of what is expected to be one of the most crucial climate summits since 2015, the UN’s COP26. 

After tireless advocacy efforts Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is attending this conference with the newly agreed to target of net zero emissions by 2050. Australia is late to the table in making what is considered the bare minimum commitment towards global climate efforts.  However, after seeing the passion, persistence and faithful, gracious efforts of Christians around the country calling for urgent climate action in the lead up to this moment, I have hope today. 

Since June 2021, Common Grace’s Knit for Climate Action knitters and advocacy teams have been calling for urgent action on climate change, meeting with our nation’s leaders to gift our climate stripe scarves and spark conversations for change. 

On 21 October, the last joint sitting day in Parliament before the beginning of COP26, Common Grace called on our nation’s leaders to #WearTheScarf to show their support for urgent climate action. Every parliamentarian was gifted a scarf and given the opportunity to #WearTheScarf. Amazingly over 60, a quarter of Australia’s parliamentarians, took action and wore the Common Grace climate scarf in Question Time, and shared about their actions across social media.

As the COP26 climate summit begins, stakes are high and the need to listen to those voices calling for more action is urgent. That there was such a strong show of support amongst those who chose to #WearTheScarf was a breath of hope. 

Six years ago, at COP21 in Paris, every country unanimously agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and do all they could to keep warming below 1.5 degrees. It was a historic moment - the first time the world had unanimously agreed to tackle the climate crisis. Sadly, the actual commitments countries brought to Paris about how they would achieve this goal left the world on track to see warming of 3 degrees this century…a result that would be catastrophic for ecosystems, human societies, for all of creation.

As part of the Paris Agreement, every 5 years, countries come back with updated commitments, reflecting their highest possible ambition to reduce emissions.

Those 5 years have now passed, (with an additional delay of one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and COP26 is the moment where new goals, firmer commitments and more ambitious plans must be made. 

Especially from Australia.

Australia has flip flopped on climate action. The bipartisan commitment to strong climate action crumbled in 2009, when Tony Abbott ousted Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader amidst debates about Australia’s climate policy. Nevertheless, by 2013 Australia was world leading in implementing a nationwide system to restrain carbon emissions, the carbon tax and emissions trading scheme. With the election of the Abbott Coalition government in September 2013, this policy was dismantled and Australia’s climate efforts on the policy front have since stalled. 

After a decade of delay, experts and peer nations now widely regard Australia as a global laggard.

Other advanced economies like the US, UK and the EU have significantly strengthened and expanded on their Paris commitments and are working towards sharp and significant emissions reductions in the next decade. Our government has only just committed to a net-zero target for 2050, the bare minimum of what is expected.

The gracious yet firm voice of knitters and Christians have sought to remind our leaders that the consequences of insufficient action, especially for the most vulnerable, are dire.

At Common Grace, we hear from Torres Strait Islander peoples describing the impacts of rising seas and more aggressive storm fronts, from Aboriginal Peoples who tell us how ceremonies that have taken place for thousands of years on their traditional lands cannot be performed because it is simply too hot to do so,  we also hear the cries of the peoples of the Pacific Island nations for whom climate change is an existential threat.

Cultures, lands, livelihoods, ecosystems and lives are all at risk if nations fail to act. Many nations are stepping up to the challenge, it’s crucial that our country, with so much on the line, does as well.

For now, I continue to take hope and inspiration from those around the country that have powerfully, graciously and faithfully continued to remind our leaders of this truth, by weaving their God given call to pursue justice into powerful action.

Let’s continue to join with them, and pray that we are listened to.

Gershon Nimbalker lives on the lands of Awabakal peoples and is the director of Sojourners Social Change Consultants. Gershon has more than 15 years of experience working in advocacy, policy and research, as well as leading and growing grass roots movements to campaign on issues of social justice.

Creation & Climate Justice