COP26 and No 10 visits in amazing CAFOD experience

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COP26 and No 10 visits in amazing CAFOD experience

International Development student and CAFOD East Anglia volunteer Joe Savage shares his experiences of working with the Catholic charity over the past six months.

Over the past several months I have had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with CAFOD as the Campaigns Volunteer Coordinator in East Anglia. During this time, I have spoken to local parishes, schools, and young adult groups before and after the G7 and COP26 conferences explaining and discussing their importance and the issues that were to be addressed during them.

This included lobbying MPs as part of CAFOD’s Parliament in Your Parish campaign, and sharing our thoughts, as people of faith, on what the government should be doing in response to the climate crisis as well as sharing our position on issues of debt cancellation for low and middle income countries and global vaccine equality both within the UK and internationally.

As well as working with  communities in East Anglia, I also had the opportunity to join CAFOD in campaigning for our asks with other young adults in both Cornwall and Glasgow. These were amazing opportunities to meet lots of other people from around the country, to feel part of them by making our voices heard.

I arrived in Glasgow on Friday November 5 after a long train journey from Norwich. After meeting with other members of the group at the hostel we were staying at, we walked over the Green Zone. This was located on the opposite side of the river to the Blue Zone which hosted the negotiators and representatives from 197 different countries.

The Green Zone contained stalls run by different organisations from around the world eager to tell you about all sorts of things from how video game companies are reducing their environmental impact to a VR experience showing what life is like living in the Bohol province in the Philippines which was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake causing sea levels to rise drastically. Through talking with all these different people, I was able to understand how diverse and interconnected the climate crisis is and how we need to make drastic changes to our way of life in order to protect those affected most by the crisis as well as reducing the most severe effects of climate change in the years to come.

That evening, we made our way to St Aloysius’ church to partake in part of the 24-hour vigil live-streamed across the world from the church. As part of the vigil, we shared videos about CAFOD’s Live Simply award and the work of some of our partners in Columbia in giving the Atrato River special protective rights. We also hosted a live prayer service where we reflected on what we wanted from the conference as well as asking God to help inspire the negotiators at the conference to work together to produce a strong agreement.

The next day contained the main event of our COP26 journey, and also the wettest! Over 100,000 people marched through the streets of Glasgow to demonstrate their desire for immediate action to combat the climate crisis. This message was echoed around the world as people marched in solidarity in every continent on the planet. Unfortunately, the messages written on our placards were quickly destroyed by the wet and windy Glaswegian weather but that didn’t stop us as we shouted and sung about our desire for climate action and several of our asks such as the shutting down of coal power stations.

On Saturday evening, after a hot shower and vegetable curry, we had a talk from several CAFOD representatives, Neil Thorns, Head of Advocacy, Robin Mace-Smith, Policy Analysist for Climate and Energy, and Frances Leach, Press Officer, who had spent the last week campaigning inside the Blue Zone with all the negotiators and sharing their messages and the messages of our Caritas partners around the world.

Sunday gave us some time to explore Glasgow and spend some time experiencing some of the fringe events happening across the city before heading back home. Overall, the experience was enjoyable and eye-opening. I had the privilege of meeting so many interesting people from all walks of life from across the country and immersing myself in what had the potential to be the most important climate conference ever.

To find out more about what was agreed at COP26 and what CAFOD thought about the conference, click on this link here.

Just when you thought that life couldn’t get more exciting, on November 29, I received a rather unusual invitation; later that week I would be attending a function at No 10 Downing Street!

I had been invited by the Bishop’s Conference through CAFOD to attend a Christmas function with representatives of different Christian organisations across the country.

I had the opportunity to meet lots of people there from the Papal Nuncio to radio presenters and representatives from different Christian charities and organisations. The function was a way of celebrating all that we had done from assisting communities struggling with the pandemic to campaigning for justice and equality.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury introduced the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who then gave a quick speech before instructing us to count down from 10 to one and lighting a nearby Christmas tree.

If this article has helped inspire you to give us some of your time volunteering for CAFOD, check out our social media accounts @cafodeastanglia on Twitter and the CAFOD in East Anglia page on Facebook to find out about our latest campaigns and ways you can join in on the action. Alternatively, you could email me to see how you can get involved.

Pictured above is Joe Savage at COP26 in Glasgow.