Climate Fasters make their mark at opening of UN talks

Fasting action at COP20. Photo: LWF/Sean Hawkey
Fasting action at COP20. Photo: LWF/Sean Hawkey

Sean Hawkey, journalist

The delegation of the Lutheran World Federation at the UN climate talks COP20 in Peru have taken centre stage with powerful symbolic actions that have captured the imagination of media and negotiators.

On the eve of the COP20 hundreds of climate fasters met for a candlelight vigil of remembrance for those affected by climate impacts. Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN climate change body UNFCCC took part in the event along with the President of the UN meeting, Peruvian Minister for the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. Figueres spoke movingly about the importance of the involvement of faith groups in the climate change discussions. Members of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Bahai and other groups took part in the vigil and candlelit procession.

Figueres was presented with a candle during the vigil, as a symbol of the hope of the gathering for urgent action on climate change, and in the first plenary session of the COP, attended by diplomats from every country on earth, Figueres and Pulgar Vidal showed the candle and left it displayed on the podium as a symbol of hope for the meeting.

Media coverage of the Climate Vigil was given worldwide through newswire services such as Reuters, AP, AFP, EFE and Xinhua as well as a large number of individual media organizations.

The opening day of the UN meeting was also a day of fasting across the world, in what was certainly the biggest Climate Fast ever. As UN delegates arrived at the opening of the meeting, LWF delegates handed them thousands of leaflets and badges to invite them to a special fasting lunch. Climate fasters gathered at the main cafeteria of the UN meeting, with empty plates, in a symbolic action that caught the attention of negotiators, dozens of interviews were given to media and positive discussions were held in public.

During the day news came in of broadening participation in the Fast for the Climate, from many Anglican Bishops across the world, and from the political and church leadership of Tuvalu, where the entire population was called upon to fast for the climate. Wael Hmaidan, director of the Climate Action Network, who took part in this event as a faster, told the gathering “we fast for the climate in solidarity with the victims of climate disasters and for our children’s futures”

The Lutheran World Federation and the Climate Action Network held an official press conference inside the UN compound, during which speeches were given by Martin Kopp from the LWF delegation, Laura Vargas of the Inter-Religious Council of Peru, Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid and Adam Greenberg of UN youth movement YOUNGO. Finally, a video address was shown from Philippines negotiator Yeb Saño who said “we are paying the price of climate change in human lives… we fast for the climate because extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary action”.

Laura Várgas emphasized that “there is a decision between death and life, and we have decided to choose life. We have to have the next generation inherit a world where life is possible”.

The next phase of the Fast for the Climate movement began 365 days of fasting, with a chain of fasters across the world building up to the crucial Paris 2015 climate change agreements.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.