Climate Action as Worship: COP 27 Reflection

Written by Paris Liu, Friend of A Rocha Ontario

14 years ago, I had written, “I pray that God would protect this earth”. When I truly began to follow Jesus three years ago, I struggled to integrate my passion for Christ and my passion for environmental stewardship. Last year, I was seeking ways to better integrate these two areas of my life, so when I discovered the Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP), I knew I had to apply.

Initially, I was quite intimidated by CCOP. I thought that you had to be very mature in your faith and had done a lot of faith-based climate work to be accepted, but that was definitely not the case. The Christian Climate Observers Program looks to equip individuals from all walks of their faith journey to take climate action and empower their communities to do the same. So, upon being accepted into the program, that is what I set out to accomplish.

Side Event: Paris Aligned Energy Modelling and Canada’s Climate Ambition.

Arriving in Sharm El-Sheikh was unreal! Egypt had always been at the top of my bucket list; little did I know that I would get the opportunity to visit and attend a climate conference there that held the power to change the trajectory of climate change.

My first day of the conference was actually the second day of the second week, as I got sick the first day due to travel fatigue. Upon stepping onto the conference grounds, I was immediately overwhelmed by the 35,000 people in attendance and the sheer size of the conference. Eventually, I found my way around and began sitting in on some side events and visiting some of the country pavilions.

At the side events, I learned various important facts about climate change. The main thing was regarding carbon capture and storage. There were many fossil fuel producing countries and companies (Canada included) promoting how they are using carbon capture and storage to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. The reality is that this is a form of greenwashing! This is because the energy intensity required to operate carbon capture and storage actually has put more emissions into the atmosphere than it has sucked out. The bottom line is that we need to phase-out fossil fuels, not rely on technologies like carbon capture and storage.

Christian Climate Observers meeting Jesse Young from the State Department.

On the last day of the conference, we were given permission by UN Security to sing “The Blessing”, based on Numbers 6:24-26, in the central food court. Joined by other Christians from our networks, and by curious passers-by, we were able to affirm God’s love for those at the COP, for the people they represent, and for their children. Many were moved to tears as we sang of God’s presence with those who weep! At the same time, we recognised the hope in His persistent, restoring presence and many seemed deeply encouraged by these words of affirmation in a space which is otherwise so demanding.

This brings me to the main lesson God taught me (re-taught, more precisely) during my time in Egypt. Originally, I had plans of making update videos every day to share what I had learned with my communities back home. But I got sick and missed a whole day of the conference. Once I began attending the conference, I was extremely overwhelmed with the information overload, the UN jargon, and the negotiations because as a civil engineering student, all of my climate knowledge has been self-taught. To put it simply, I felt like I had failed with the bit of climate action I had been tasked with when I was given the opportunity to attend the conference. But God reminded me of one important truth when it comes to climate action as a Christian. 

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve His needs—for He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need.” – Acts 17: 24-28 

Outside the conference center at COP27.

God does not need us to save the earth. We are not the saviours! Personally, as a climate activist, it can be really easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that doing climate-related work is helping God, but the reality is that He is sovereign and Lord over everything – including what happens to the earth and when.  

So then I asked myself, “If God doesn’t need us, then why does he still call us to steward after the earth through taking action on climate change?” After some research, I found that the primary reason lies in how as Christians, although we cannot serve God’s needs, we can bring glory to Him by caring for his creation. It is worship to God when we act as the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth! By rebuilding the homes that have been flooded due to rising sea levels and feeding those who have lost their farms and livestock as a result of drought, any climate action we take is an act of love, for the earth, our neighbours most affected by climate change, and the Creator of the world.  

Now that my COP27 and CCOP experience has come to an end, I look forward to a hope; hope for better negotiation outcomes, a brighter future, but most importantly, hope in God—who has created all things, who has defeated death, and—often choosing to work through broken human vessels – is making “all things new” (Rev 21). 

For more information about COP27, check out A Rocha Canada’s series of reflections here. As well, check out Paris’ Youtube video for further discussion about her experience and the outcomes of COP27. 

About the Author

Paris is a fourth-year student studying Civil Engineering with a Minor in Economics at McMaster University. As Co-President of Zero Waste McMaster, she seeks to promote sustainable living both on campus and in the larger Hamilton community. As a member of LIFT Church, she uses her faith to inform the work she is doing to address climate change.