Jane Kelly reflects on her recent journey to Gudanji Country and the deep and important call for us to care for God’s beautiful creation.
I write this as I'm on my way returning from COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
The opportunity to attend my very first COP came about through the Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP), an initiative supported by a number of Christian organisations including A Rocha International (my sponsor), Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network, and Care of Creation, among others. The intention of this program is to introduce grassroots Christian Climate Advocates from around the world to the UN climate observers experience at the annual COP gatherings. I had the privilege of being the very first Australian to participate in this program, and within my group there were Christians from Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the USA.
However, I did not travel from Australia alone. Packed into every spare inch of my luggage space were 19 Knit for Climate Action scarves, knitted by passionate Common Grace supporters in the short timeframe of two months from the announcement that I was attending COP27! Some knitters, including Gill, Tammy and Lizzy, knitted multiple scarves to be gifted to faith and world leaders at COP27.
The beauty and power of these scarves never ceases to amaze me. As I shared the story of the Knit for Climate Action campaign with my fellow CCOP team members, they were uniformly enthralled by the gracious yet firm message for climate action that is woven into each and every scarf we have gifted over the past 18 months.
The CCOP team were keen to play whatever small yet significant role they could in seeing the scarves’ message reach a new and international audience at COP27.
Through the endeavours of my CCOP teammates, scarves have made it into the hands of some incredibly influential people including Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault; the 45th US vice president and climate environmentalist Al Gore; the magnificently passionate and eloquent Katharine Hayhoe; and climate activist legend and gentle Christian soul, Bill McKibben! We’ve also handed scarves to senior aides to the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, and USA President Joe Biden.
But the most beautiful and serendipitous gifting for me was with proud Masig Island man Yessie Mosby. Yessie is part of the Torres Strait Eight who recently achieved an historic victory when the UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia had violated the human rights of a group of eight Torres Strait Islanders through the government’s inaction on climate change. I was standing in a lunch line in the dry and hot Egyptian sun on Day 1, when Yessie walked by in the sea of humanity that comprises the COP27 attendees. I immediately cut my fellow CCOP team member off mid-sentence, and ran over to introduce myself to Yessie. He is such a warm and generous hearted man and we spoke for at least 20 minutes. He was moved to tears with the gifting of a Knit for Climate Action scarf and the stories I shared of how fellow Australian Christians are praying and speaking out, adding our voices to his call for our government and governments around the world to take the serious and rapid steps required to save his island home. Yessie wore his scarf every day he was at COP27; I saw him speaking at multiple events and others within my CCOP group and fellow Australians at COP27 also mentioned seeing Yessie with his scarf firmly secured around his neck.
I have been asked a number of times what I will bring home from my experience at COP27. My head and heart are so full right now and as I write this, I’m still gathering my thoughts while I make my way home to Australia.
I have sat with, looked into the eyes of, and listened deeply to so many people fighting to protect their homes, their loved ones, their culture, their lives. I will carry these stories with me when I return home and hope to share them with you all. I am looking forward to opportunities to chat with many of you over a cuppa in the coming weeks and months.
My hope and prayers for what will come from COP27 are numerous and ambitious, but in an attempt to sum them up, I pray that we will truly see those who are on the frontlines of the climate emergency, listen to their cries for justice, and join their call for our government to accelerate Australia’s pursuit of significant decarbonisation.
📸 L-R: The Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP) Team, Jane Kelly at COP27, Jane's bag packed with #KnitForClimateAction scarves
📸 L-R: CCOP team members Sarah, Rea and Rynn met with Steven Guilbeault, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who gratefully accepted the gift of a Common Grace #KnitForClimateAction scarf knitted by Tammy; former Vice President of the USA and climate activist Al Gore gifted a climate scarf knitted by Loraine; Jane Kelly with author and climate scientist Katharine Heyhoe and author, educator, environmentalist, and Co-founder of 350.org Bill McKibben; and Saye Thompson, President, National Union of Community Forest Management Bodies (Liberia), and Dinniman Tuxa, Coordinator, Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil wearing climate scarves gifted by Common Grace
📸 L-R: Jane Kelly with Rikki Dank from Gudunji Country and Yessie Mosby from Masigalgal Native Title Prescribed Body Corporate (Masig Island, Australia), ‘Who’s Paying for Climate Change’ panelists Rikki Dank from Gudunji Country, Yessie Mosby from Our Islands Our Home and Jo Dodds, President of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action.
Jane Kelly is the Creation and Climate Justice Coordinator for Common Grace and lives in Western Sydney on Darug Country. Jane has over two decades of experience in tertiary education administration and project management roles. Her studies include theology, ministry, ethics, and legal studies.