“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
Today, we at the Paris climate summit were privileged to hear from Bishop Efraim Tendero, Pesident of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). In addition to leading the 600-million-member WEA, Bishop “Eff” serves as the presiding Bishop of the Philippines. And so his lecture, titled “Climate Justice,” rings with special authority, as the nation of the Philippines leads a bloc of nations that claim to be the most harmed by climate change. That bloc, called the V20, is demanding justice from polluting countries that are causing them harm.
Indeed, it has long been recognized that poorer countries are most vulnerable to climate change, without having contributed meaningfully to its causes. Bishop Eff noted that China and the US account for 42% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, the low-lying Philippines account for only 0.28% of those pollutants. And while the big polluters will indeed suffer in a world of climate disruption, it is the Philippines which are already being devastated by monster storms like Typhoon Haiyan.
The leader of the WEA isn’t the only one telling this story, either. The Global Climate Risk Index, maintained by GermanWatch, ranks countries by the harm they have suffered from climate change. In the last 20 years, the Philippines has ranked fifth in the world in climate damage, behind Honduras, Burma, Haiti and Nicaragua. In fact, of the ten most affected countries, nine were developing countries in the low-income group. The red circles on the map below highlight the hotspots, with Bangladesh, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Pakistan rounding out the ten countries with the dubious honor of paying most heavily for the cost of our oil and coal binge in China and the US.
The Christian witness at this global gathering is meaningful and visible. And with the voice of leaders like Bishop Tendero, the evangelical world is now demanding justice for the poor, in an increasingly inhospitable world.