Faith groups have expressed disappointment and anger over the outcome of the United Nations talks on climate change that have ended in Copenhagen, pledging to continue to press for climate justice.
"With a lack of transparency, the agreement reached this past week by some countries was negotiated without consensus but rather in secret among the powerful nations of the world," the World Council of Churches’ programme executive on climate change, Guillermo Kerber, stated.
Kerber said an agreement "called the Copenhagen Accord, was negotiated between five countries, the U.S., China, India, South Africa and Brazil". He said, "It maintains that the scientific thinking for keeping temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius is important, but failed to make commitments to reduce emissions to keep the temperature rise in check."
After the conclusion of the 8 to 18 December COP15 summit, Kerber asserted, "This has proven to be a strong strike against multilateralism and the democratic principles in the U.N. system."
Caritas Internationalis, an international consortium of Roman Catholic relief agencies, and CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic development agencies, denounced the Copenhagen accord as "a weak and morally reprehensible deal which will spell disaster for millions of the world’s poorest people."
CIDSE secretary general, Bernd Nilles, said on 21 December, "It is inconceivable that with more than 100 world leaders gathered together in one room to make a pact to solve a global problem, they have failed to commit themselves to adequate and binding obligations."
A delegation that included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other ecumenical leaders preached and marched during the 11-day meeting.
"Although this is not the first time an agreement has not been reached at a COP meeting," said Elias Abramides, the leader of the WCC delegation, "this time it was worse because of the lack of transparency and shadow negotiations by some countries without involving all."
Kenyan professor Jesse Mugambi, a member of the WCC working group on climate change, said, "Copenhagen was a missed opportunity by the industrialised countries to lead by example."
Mugambi noted, "While countries like China and India came with concrete measures they have voluntarily taken to reduce CO2 emissions, they are not committed to do so as they are not members of the Annex 1 countries of the Kyoto Protocol."
He added, "Most of the industrialised countries didn’t show the needed commitment to lead the whole world in an effective way to address the challenges of climate change."
In Britain the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches in a joint statement on 21 December condemned the world’s richest countries for failing to reach a binding agreement at the Copenhagen climate change summit.
It said that the "Free Churches" have been arguing that, as the world’s biggest carbon emitters, developed countries have a moral responsibility to take the lead in agreeing on a new deal to counter global warming when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
"The failure by negotiators at the climate talks in Copenhagen to agree to cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, after two weeks of negotiations, represents an immense set-back for rich and poor countries alike," said the Rev. John Marsh, moderator of the general assembly of the United Reformed Church in Britain.
The WCC’s Kerber said however, "The struggle continues." He added, "We need to build on the incredible mobilisation by churches and the civil society over the next year, with prayers, bell ringing, and advocacy action, to reach a fair, ambitious and binding deal."
From New York, the executive director of the U.S.-based Church World Service, the Rev. John L. McCullough, said on his return from Copenhagen, "Regardless of the agreements, signed or not signed at Copenhagen, binding or not binding, this does not leave developed and emerging nations off the hook in terms of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
"Nor is it a license for emerging nations to proceed with development without self-regulated, intentional measures toward greener development," he said.