Peace for us, peace for the earth?

COP26: Was it good news or bad news?

The answer, of course, is both. Progress has been made – but is it enough? Here is a very brief summary for those of us who found it hard to cope with the quantity of information and opinion that came our way.

We need to be keeping global warming down to 1.5 degrees to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. If we carried on as we were before COP26 we would hit 2.7 degrees. We now have improved the estimate to 2.4 degrees, so still quite a way off. Promises have been made to cut emissions to zero by the second half of this century, but will they be kept, and is it enough?

At last, we have grasped the nettle of talking about burning fossil fuels. Coal will be phased down, (but not phased out). Subsidies on fossil fuels, too, will be phased down. Countries have been asked to update their plans by next year (it used to be every five years) to continue to improve the situation. There is still (just) a chance of reducing warming to 1.5 degrees.

The countries most affected by extreme weather such as cyclones and sea level rise are small islands and other developing countries. The wealthier countries are continuing to refuse to accept responsibility for the damage their pollution has caused.

The rules on carbon offsetting have been tightened up, but there are still loopholes, allowing both countries and companies to game the system.

There is still much progress that needs to be made. Powerful countries are not yet taking the decisive action needed. Climate campaigners need to keep pushing hard to persuade their governments to take more radical action.

Our individual options remain the same. We can pray for progress. We can work to persuade our politicians that faster change is imperative. We can do our own bit to live greener lifestyles.

A green Christmas?

There is plenty advice about as to how to celebrate Christmas without reducing our enjoyment but costing the planet less. Most of it boils down to the same few principles and common sense. Here are a few suggestions.

Gifts. Don’t give for the sake of it. If you have a large family, can you negotiate who gives to whom, to cut down the present buying. What about a Secret Santa? Bear the planet in mind when you shop (sustainable materials, FSC wood, as little plastic as possible). Best of all make your own gifts.

Wrapping paper. Did you know that a lot of wrapping paper is not recyclable, because it contains foil, glitter or plastic? Try the scrunch test – scrunch up the paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds by its own accord, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements. If possible, use recycled wrapping paper, or best of all, fabric that can be reused another year.

Food. Be realistic about the amount that you need and freeze leftovers. It might be an idea to eat your way through the freezer in the next few weeks to make extra room. Move towards eating less meat and more local and organic produce.

If you are rushing around and exhausting yourself, something is wrong. Do the things that are really important to you and drop some of the rest. Take time to reflect on the joy of time spent with those you love, and the true meaning of Christmas.

A prayer for a simple Christmas

Loving Father, as we ponder the coming of the child of Bethlehem, we rejoice that you. the Almighty, the Creator, the Infinite, whose being is utterly beyond our loftiest thought and most daring imagination, can speak to us as a little Child. Save us from being over-impressed by the impressive. Help us to see you in simple things: a child’s trust, birdsong, the quiet loveliness of dawn, human friendship and the peace of our homes. We bow in worship before the majesty of heaven revealed in a human life. Accept our worship and make us more like your dear Son, who gave of himself, not counting the cost. Amen

Leslie Weatherhead

Rev Sue


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