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16 July 2001

WCC delegation at the climate conference in Bonn : the Kyoto Protocol must be kept alive

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-14, of 15 June 2001
cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-08, of 30 March 2001
cf. WCC Press Release, PR-00-34, of 14 November 2000

The outlook is not good for the climate conference taking place in Bonn, Germany, from 16 to 27 July. Many people have written the negotiations off as a failure before they even get started. This is what the nine-member delegation that will monitor the talks on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is afraid of. They will be trying to make the WCC's position clear wherever possible.

"The voice of the WCC delegation is the voice of the silent, unheard majority in our world," says Elias Abramides, the leader of the delegation in Bonn, with conviction. Two difficult weeks lie ahead for the nine delegates from Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, United Kingdom, USA and Zimbabwe, all members of the WCC working group on climate change.

In the delegation's view, the US government's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol will seriously compromise the outcome of the conference. Elias Abramides from Argentina describes the attitude of the United States as obstinate and unyielding. Just 40 industrial nations will be facing the 160 countries that do not belong to the rich North.

The WCC believes that the burden of moral responsibility for the rapid advance of climate change lies precisely with those industrialized countries. They should therefore be taking the lead in adopting measures to reduce the causes of such change. "And now one of those forty countries has stated that it is not willing to be part of the process. Yet this is about solidarity and facing up to our common ethical responsibility for preserving God's creation," says Abramides. "As Christians we cannot accept such a position." The WCC delegation supports all efforts that might persuade the USA to relent.

Abramides sees Japan playing a crucial role in the forthcoming conference, though he does not expect the Japanese government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, at least at present without the USA. For the conference participants the most important task will be to keep the Protocol alive. "They have a moral duty to do so," he says.

The members of the WCC working group on climate change do not only lobby for careful and climate-friendly use of resources at international conferences. They are also active at the local level in their home churches, organizing projects and initiatives to bring the problems of climate change to the attention of their fellow citizens and showing what individuals can do to help reduce green-house gas emissions. In particular, they support regional activities in the developing countries and work with Indigenous Peoples' groups.

On this occasion, the WCC is not planning specific action of its own. In Bonn, the delegates will take part in press conferences, special events, book launches and prayers. And even though it does look as if nothing constructive will come of the negotiations, Abramides has not abandoned hope: "The very fact that we are here at this conference with the government representatives is a sign of hope for the future and proof of our unwavering determination to preserve the beauty and richness of our environment, which is God's precious gift to us. And, who knows, perhaps a miracle will happen - or at least they will achieve the best that is possible under the circumstances."

Mr Elias C. Abramides, Argentina
Mr Kevan Bundell, United Kingdom
Ms Julia Ratzmann, Germany
Mr David L. Renkema, The Netherlands
Dr Larisa Skuratovskaya, Russia
Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman, USA
Ms Marijke van Duin, The Netherlands
Mr Jaap van Der Sar, The Netherlands
Ms Bonnie Wright, Zimbabwe

For more information contact Mirjam Schubert
Mobile: (+ 49) 171 699 3784
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.