A student minister from Taber, Alta., is one of three young adults who are part of the United Church of Canada’s COP28 delegation.
From Nov. 30 through Dec. 12, the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The first-ever faith pavilion will be part of COP28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to inspire ambitious goals and call for concrete commitments on climate change.
The United Church youth delegation members will attend the conference virtually.
The delegation includes Shane Goldie, a 22-year-old student minister with Chinook Winds serving Knox United in Milk River, Alta. and St Paul’s United in Taber, Alta.
He says as an Indigenous person he feels deeply passionate about climate change and its intersection with faith.
“I see the effects of climate change on our Indigenous communities and our vulnerable age groups as multifaceted,” explained Goldie.
“This crisis is not only about changing temperatures and rising seas, but also about the need to restore spiritual connection to the planet. In contrast, the prevailing global attitude often threatens the Earth and perceives it as a resource to exploit.”
He says his congregations in both Taber and Milk River support bringing climate issues to the pulpit
“In southern Alberta it is hard because there’s lobbyists from the Alberta government that will be going to COP28 to express how good oil is. It’s hard but people are open to the idea,” Goldie said.
“If they can hear it from someone they trust. someone who is directly connected to them, I think it makes a big difference.”
Premier Danielle Smith and Rebecca Schulz, minister of environment and protected areas of Alberta, will be attending COP28.
The premier’s office shared a statement with Global News in which Smith said Alberta has a “very compelling story to tell about what the future of this energy transition looks like.”
“Energy development and emissions reduction are not in conflict. Alberta has been a long-time global leader in energy production and continues to be at the forefront of the global energy transition towards new technology and innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the statement noted.
In an area that’s known for Taber corn, southern Alberta is now facing scarce water, heat and limited grass for grazing. This summer, the Special Areas Board declared a state of agricultural disaster for Special Areas 2, 3 and 4 due to prolonged drought.
Goldie says he’s felt welcome in his rural communities that have been open to his two-spirit and Indigenous perspectives.
“As for the climate conversations – it’s been a challenge. It’s been hard because people don’t necessarily always want to hear it,” Goldie said.
At COP28, the faith pavilion will involve over 300 faith leaders representing 70 faith-based organizations.
Rabbi Nisan Andrews at the Congregation House of Jacob-Mikveh Israel in Calgary calls this a necessary and positive development.
“We really need to be communicating and getting our message to as many ears as possible that there needs to be a change in how we conduct ourselves and how we behave and how we think of the environment,” said Andrews. “Religious leaders provide access to an additional core of people who would either a) not have heard the message, or b) even if they had – it can be reinforced by important authority figures in their lives.”
Andrews said in some places, religious leaders have more influence than others.
“But even in places where leaders have limited ability to influence the thoughts and the politics of their congregants, having the message reinforced by as many people as possible, will likely incline the audience to take that much more seriously,” added Andrews.
“As long as it’s a message that is being reinforced by what they hear on the radio and what they see on television and what their friends are speaking about and what they’re reading in the newspaper and now they’re hearing it in the congregations as well. I think that has a very valuable effect on influencing people’s behaviour.”
Pope Francis is set to speak at the inauguration of the faith pavilion during the upcoming 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference on Sunday
“I think the idea of having a faith pavilion is great. It’s going to be incredible to see that the Pope is actually attending the opening of the first-ever faith pavilion. I think it’s important for people of all faith and denominations and backgrounds to be able to have a space where they can celebrate each other and celebrate their faith and to have the ability to share something that is globally common,” Goldie said.
“Indigenous people often live in close harmony with the environment, which makes them susceptible to the changes and impact that the climate is doing to us. This includes threats to our traditional ways of life, the loss of our ancestral lands and destruction to cultural practices that are immediately tied to the land and climate.”
Goldie attends St. Andrews College in Saskatoon and is finishing his internship portion for his masters degree program. He will be ordained in May.
The United Church delegation will have the opportunity to follow the negotiations, connect with national and international climate justice advocates, engage with Canadian officials, and share their experiences in order to further faith-based climate action.