Over the last two weeks, representatives of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) have been participating in discussions at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, highlighting the need for rethinking the relationship between society and the natural world.
“Humanity is at a pivotal moment when it must recognize its essential oneness — that we all share the same atmosphere and that cooperation among all nations is needed in order to address the pressing, existential questions that we will face in the coming decades,” says Daniel Perell, a representative from the New York Office of the BIC at the conference.
Mr. Perell was joined in the BIC delegation to the conference by Serik Tokbolat from Kazakhstan, Peter Aburi from Kenya, and Maja Groff from the Netherlands.
In their contributions to discussions, the BIC representatives offered a number of concrete proposals. “There is a need for a mechanism to coordinate aspects of humanity’s relationship with the natural world,” said Mr. Perell.
“Such a mechanism could, for example, serve to mobilize financial resources around environmental goals, and oversee their distribution. It could support national governments in transitioning away from environmentally harmful policies to establishing more sustainable alternatives.”
Mr. Perell continued, explaining that while this is just one possible way of organizing efforts, the important thing is to ensure that consensus is followed through to implementation and that any approach or mechanism to address climate change is viewed holistically. He stated: “Ultimately, disparate environmental governing bodies and treaties, if brought together under one umbrella, would ensure greater coherence in governance systems that oversee climate change.”
The twelve-day conference concluded on Friday, November 12th, and brought together more than 120 world leaders, as well as numerous civil society organizations, journalists and media outlets, businesses, and climate activists in Glasgow, Scotland, to examine global efforts addressing climate change.
In their contributions to discussions, the BIC representatives explored moral questions of consumption and excessive materialism that are associated with the exploitation and degradation of the environment.
“Development is often measured in terms of expanding the ability to acquire material goods. Notions of what constitutes progress must be urgently re-examined before climate change leads to irreversible consequences,” said Dr. Tokbolat.
Mr. Aburi expanded further, stating: “Movement in this direction will require economic arrangements to be disciplined according to lofty ideals and the common good.”
Other themes highlighted by the BIC delegates at different forums included the role of international structures in addressing environmental challenges, which the BIC has explored in its statement “A Governance Befitting: Humanity and the Path Toward a Just Global Order.”
At a discussion held by the International Environment Forum, a Baha’i-inspired organization, Ms. Groff explained how greater collaboration and the sharing of knowledge among countries can significantly contribute to climate action. “We have a suggestion for a global climate policy clearinghouse so that states can share experiences, learn from best practices, and really accelerate the implementation of climate policies,” she said.
The BIC representatives also noted the important role that individuals can play in addressing climate change.
“The pandemic has shown us the power of local action by individuals. We have seen a real galvanizing force toward the common good among families, friends, and neighbors,” said Mr. Perell at a discussion held by the World Wildlife Fund.
He added: “This is a source of hope from which we can draw lessons and apply them to discussions in these forums as we collectively confront the multiple challenges that humanity is facing.”