COP-27 Overview

This November, the world gathered in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, for the 27th United Nations Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (or COP27) to discuss and implement climate action. 198 countries have ratified the convention, which first took effect in 1994 and hopes to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C, and mitigate the dangerous effects of human-induced climate change. More than 100 heads of state and many thousands of delegates convened to review the most pressing climate issues of our time, including climate finance, matters relating to developing countries, gender, and capacity-building under the convention.

By the end of COP27, one issue on the agenda stood above the rest: loss and damage. According to Dr. Adelle Thomas, a lead author on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Sixth Assessment Report and the Special Report on 1.5°C, defines loss and damage as the negative impacts of climate change that occur in the absence of mitigation and adaptation, such as infrastructure damage or climate disaster trauma. Vulnerable groups such as women and those of lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by losses and damages, and the effects are felt more heavily in developing countries. If losses and damages are not mitigated, a severe lack of economic output, livelihood, biodiversity, and community will follow. By the time COP27 closed, an agreement had been reached to provide funding that aims to help countries respond to loss and damage, particularly countries in the Global South. A 2022 statement by the Inter-religious Climate and Ecology Network demanded exactly this in September, urging countries in the Global North to recognize their historical role in exacerbating climate change, and to acknowledge that the poorest 50% of the world’s population emit only 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The understanding that climate change impacts are growing – and that they hit harder for disadvantaged groups and developing countries – is particularly relevant for people of faith. Climate is quickly becoming a focal point of faith discussions all around the world. In 2014, international faith leader and Thiền Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in a statement published by the UNFCCC: “Whatever nationality or culture we belong to, whatever religion we follow, whether we’re Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, we can all see that the Earth is not inert matter … cherishing our precious Earth … is not an obligation. It is a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.” St. Francis of Assisi, declared the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II, wrote in his Canticle of the Creatures, “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.” His words were echoed by Pope Francis in a 2014 encyclical letter, in which he wrote that the “bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace” is inseparable. Similar sentiments regarding the environment are reflected in Hindu scripture, according to the Hindu American Foundation. This is an assertion that the Hindu Climate Declaration reflects: “We have a dharmic duty for each of us to do our part in ensuring that we have a functioning, abundant, and bountiful planet.” In Turkey in 2015, the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change asserted that “Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change.” The Union for Reform Judaism puts forward the concept of pikuach nefesh – the principle that preserving human life is of utmost importance – in regards to our environment. The growth of climate change as a topic of discussion amongst faith communities speaks to the common concerns of justice, stewardship and suffering.

We know that climate change and its deleterious effects should motivate people of faith to take action, but the path forward can be hard to envision on such a large scale. The average person doesn’t have the time, resources, or capability to consider the international perspective in everything that we do. Narrowing our focus to local climate-related concerns is just as helpful and rewarding. Pennsylvania endures its own unique climate challenges worth examining, and one of the most pervasive is fracking. Fracking is the more commonly-repeated name for hydraulic fracturing, the process by which pressurized fluid and other substances (usually sand and various chemicals) are injected via borehole into rock layers beneath the earth. This pressure opens fractures through which oil and natural gas underground can move with more ease, allowing for their extraction. Current guidelines allow for fracking wells to operate within 500 feet of a residence in Pennsylvania. Though some contend that fracking is safe for residents and that current guidelines are effective in protecting public health, research suggests otherwise. According to a new study from the Yale School of Public Health, children who grew up within a mile of a fracking well have an increased risk of developing leukemia – twice as high as children who did not grow up in such proximity. These results suggest that pollutants resulting from fracking are disproportionately affecting children – one of the most vulnerable groups identified by the UNFCCC

Protect Penn-Trafford, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that advocated for the rights of residents of Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, identifies leachate as a major public health and environmental concern. Leachate is liquid runoff from landfills. Waste materials from fracking are dumped in these landfills, and exposure to rain creates hazardous liquid. That liquid is then treated in sewage treatment plants and released into rivers and streams, despite the fact that fracking waste can contain radioactive materials which Pennsylvania’s water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out. This water becomes our drinking water. In addition, the Environmental Health Project asserts that fracking releases toxic chemicals into water when fluid from the drilling process contacts water sources, either during the process or during transportation of waste. Spilled water can introduce heavy metals and chemicals into soil, which humans ingest when eating affected food sources, such as livestock and their byproducts.

As we face the growing climate crisis both at home in Pennsylvania and internationally, it becomes imperative that people of faith who care cultivate a meaningful response. Climate change threatens to displace millions (as it did this year in Pakistan) and cause an enormous loss of health, community, and quality of life. No one faith community owns the concept of environmental justice. It follows, then, that no one faith community can lead the response; it must be a continuous interfaith effort to protect our most vulnerable and act as good stewards to the planet.

This blog was written by PA IPL 2022 Fellow, Renika Weimer.

Now Available: Video of PA IPL Interfaith Spiritual Care 2022 “Walking Through Life with Active Hope”

Session 4: “Ecological Spirituality”

This meeting, recorded Monday, December 5, 2022, was the final of four sessions of PA IPL’s 2022 Interfaith Spiritual Care series, “Walking Through Life With Active Hope.” The theme of our fourth program of 2022 is “Ecological Spirituality.” We explore this topic with music, meditation, images, prayer, and Active Hope practices.

PA IPL Interfaith Spiritual Care 2022: “Walking Through Life with Active Hope”
Session 4: “Ecological Spirituality”
Monday, December 5th at 7:00pm

We explore Joanna Macy’s Active Hope through the lens of Ecological Economics. As in the past, we use music, prayer, meditation, and small group discussion to explore this topic.

This Spiritual Care series provides space for our interfaith work and expressions of our traditions. Each event is designed to help us come together, reconnect, and seek hope as an interfaith community. Additionally, we offer opportunities for PA IPL Board Members and Chapter Members to organize faith specific celebrations.

Now Available: Video of PA IPL Environmental Education Series – December 2022

Winter Cultural Holiday Celebrations
Water & Energy Conservation

PA IPL 2022-23 Environmental Education Series: Caring for Creation
First Fridays 12-1pm
October 2022 through June 2023

December 02, 2022

Winter Cultural Holiday Celebrations
Water & Energy Conservation

PA IPL is offering a virtual Environmental Education Series that is generously funded by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The programs will be offered virtually along with our partner, First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG), and will be available to all of our members through this new, virtual environmental education series, Caring for Creation with PA IPL. Please join us during your lunch hour on First Fridays.

Now Available: Video of Main Line IPL Chapter’s November 28th Program!

Challenging Conversations: Strategies to Bridge the Divide

For our November 28th program, Phyllis Blumberg shares the toolkit developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists to address disinformation by relying on social science research. We are fortunate to have Phyllis as our presenter this month. We will also have an opportunity to practice how to respond to disinformation in conversations and in the media and be in receipt of tools to keep from being sucked in or redirected in conversations.

Phyllis Blumberg, our speaker, is a PA organizer for the Jewish Earth Alliance, a PA Interfaith Power & Light Board member, and a community organizer on behalf of climate and disinformation for the Union of Concerned Scientists. We are grateful to have had her join us for our November program!

Email us or sign up here if you would like to join Main Line IPL!

Now Available: Video of November 16 Meeting in Partnership with JEA!

Countering Climate Disinformation in Conversations and in the Media with PA IPL & JEA

This meeting, recorded Wednesday, November 16, 2022, is part of PA IPL’s ongoing partnership with Jewish Earth Alliance (JEA).

Countering Climate Disinformation In Conversations and In the Media

Maegan Ramirez, Climate Justice Outreach Coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists

This joint session with JEA focuses on how to have difficult conversations and how to bridge the divide.

Maegan Ramirez is a program coordinator with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role, she supports the Climate Impacts team and helped establish a programmatic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. Prior to joining UCS, Maegan completed a research internship at the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also worked in higher education at the University of Texas at El Paso, and served as a Congressional District Leader for the ONE Campaign, which focuses on ending extreme poverty and preventable diseases. Maegan holds a BA in creative writing and political science from the University of Texas at El Paso, and an MFA in creative writing from American University.

JEA provides ongoing training and templates for monthly letter writing campaigns to local, state, and federal officials. The meetings provide a template, information, and guidance for all those who are interested in amplifying the message of Climate Justice.

Once you learn how easy Jewish Earth Alliance makes it, through their background information and template letter, for everyone to write letters to their federal officials, we hope you will write to your members of Congress now and for the next few months.

Environmental Justice & Human Resilience: PA IPL 2022 Annual Conference

November 13, 2022 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm

The topic of this year’s conference, Environmental Justice & Human Resilience, is at the core of PA IPL’s mission. We seek to inspire and mobilize people of faith and conscience to take bold and just action on climate change. This must start and continue with work in and with the frontline communities most directly and immediately affected by climate change.

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Joylette Portlock, Executive Director, Sustainable Pittsburgh. Prior to her role at Sustainable Pittsburgh, Dr. Portlock served as Associate Director of Science and Research at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and as Executive Director of Communitopia, a nonprofit based in Pittsburgh that focuses on climate change communication. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in anthropology from MIT and a Ph.D. in genetics from Stanford University. Her work focuses on building community around sustainability topics, with a particular interest in making important scientific, technical or complex information accessible and useful. Dr. Portlock has worked on environmental issues at the local, state, and federal level, and also currently serves on the Allegheny County Board of Health.

We are pleased to offer a virtual keynote address & response panel session that will be broadcast across PA as well as two workshops in each of our four in-person locations: Philadelphia (SE PA), Scranton (NE PA), Lancaster (Central PA), and Pittsburgh (SW PA). There will be breaks with refreshments, between the sessions, at the in-person locations.

Philadelphia/SE PA Sessions:
United Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia Campus: Brossman Center
1. Local Resiliency
2. Local Advocacy

Scranton/NE PA Sessions:
The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Welcoming Space
1. Connecting Environmental Justice & Environmental Law
2. Integrating Organic Farming & The Performing Arts

Lancaster/Central PA Sessions:
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
1. Building Equitable Local Climate Resilience
2. Developing a Congregational Creation Care Program

Pittsburgh/SW PA Sessions:
Duquesne University: College Hall, Rooms 104-105
1. The Healing Spirit of the Earth
2. Successes & Challenges in Frontline Communities

A Reflection and short Refreshment Session will close the Annual Conference between 3:50pm – 4pm at each in-person location.

Please join us and register today. The next page will permit you to complete your registration by indicating whether you will attend the virtual Keynote Session only, or whether you will attend virtually plus attend the regional Workshop session closest to you. A ZOOM link for the Keynote Address will be emailed to you when you register.

PA IPL Staff & Board Members look forward to connecting with you virtually or after the Workshops in your region on Sunday, November 13th, 1pm – 4pm.

All are welcome to attend. We also welcome any suggestions regarding sponsorships for this year’s conference. If you or your organization/company are interested in advertising or speaking directly to the PA IPL community please reach out to Kathy Hrabovsky at or submit your sponsorship here.

Register here and receive an email providing the link for the Keynote Address.

We hope you will join us!

Browse past conferences.

Thanks to Our 2022 Sponsors

Photovoltaic Sponsors:

Pendle Hill

Gold Sponsors:

Central Baptist Church of Wayne

Silver Sponsors:

East Liberty Presbyterian Church
Envinity Solar
Pittsburgh Mennonite Church
The Sisters of IHM
Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden

Bronze Sponsors:

Pennsylvania Climate Convergence
Radical Support Collective
Scranton Area Ministerium