Bishop John in the grounds of Wardley Hall

Bishop John: COP commitments must be measured and met

Thursday 14th December 2023

Bishop John has called for more concrete commitment to tackling our climate crisis as another COP conference comes to a close.

For the past two weeks, political leaders from across the globe have been gathering in Dubai to discuss plans to address our global environmental emergency and the impact it is having on communities across the world.

Reports from the COP28 conference speak of a commitment to “transition away” from fossil fuels and provide financial support to countries most impacted by the effects of our changing climate, but Bishop John greeted the news with “guarded optimism”.

Speaking to the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales, the lead bishop for the environment said: “I see far too many references to targets needing to be agreed – things needing to be settled. The language is right, but there’s no real sign of measured commitments being met and sanctions for anyone who doesn’t meet the commitments.

“Is this greenwashing? I hope it’s not. I really do want to be optimistic about it and to think that nearly 200 nations have gathered and said very urgent things to one another and come up with what looks like an agreement is excellent. But how do we measure real progress? We’re going to have to wait and see. But even from COP27 and COP26, those commitments were not met. Is it more of the same language amounting to no real action? I hope not.”

“More is needed.”

Dr Emma Gardner, Head of Environment for the Diocese of Salford, echoed Bishop John’s sentiments, acknowledging that the rhetoric sounded optimistic but lacked the urgency and commitment needed given the scale of the challenge.

She said: “As ever, it’s important to be positive and focus on the good we see in the world.

“There have been some positive commitments at COP28, including over 100 countries agreeing to triple the world’s amount of renewable energy installed by 2023, $800 million pledged to fight tropical diseases, and $700 million pledged to help nations across the Global South deal with the impacts of climate change.

“But is that enough? Realistically, considering the scale of the challenge, no. Billions are need to address the harm caused by the effects of climate change. More is needed.”

Although she acknowledges the encouraging step that calls for all countries to move away from using fossil fuels, Emma had hoped for a commitment to move faster and to make deeper reductions in our use of fossil fuels.

She said: “We know accelerating action is critical, especially as it is widely believed we are not on track to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Every 0.1 degree rise matters, preventing further ecological and social loss.

“All things considered, the commitments made at COP28 are simply not strong enough and don’t embody the urgency we need to see.”

“What will you do?”

In his message to world leaders at COP28, Pope Francis hoped this year’s conference would be a “turning point, demonstrating a clear and tangible political will that can lead to a decisive acceleration of ecological transition.”

Calling for the elimination of fossil fuels, greater dependency on renewable energy, and debt cancellation for countries who have contributed least to our ecological crisis but bear the greatest impact, Pope Francis is clear that change must be led from the top.

However, in his recent exhortation, Laudate Deum, the pontiff also recognised the powerful role of each individual – each family, household, parish or school – has in making a real difference to our world.

Dr Emma Gardner explains: “It is up to us, each one of us, as Pope Francis calls for in Laudate Deum, to acknowledge the urgency of the ecological crisis and engage in caring for our common home and our brothers and sisters around the world, so that we can “create a new culture” that “rises from deep within society“.

“I am always so encouraged to see the incredible work being carried out in our schools and parishes, and I invite you once again to sign your own Care for Creation Promise and make a real commitment to taking action in your community.”

Please click here to access a range of resources to help you get started in your parish (or school) or click here to download our Care for Creation Promise.

A Time for Prayer

Whilst Bishop John did stress that this was a time for action, not words, he did offer a focus for prayer for Catholics in England and Wales:

“Prayer remains very important. We can’t take anything for granted. There seems to be a real welling up of strong opinion that decisions have to be made and put into practice – that must be the target of our prayer, that people will rise to the challenge and that those actual outcomes can be properly met and achievements measured.”


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