Amid the hustle and bustle, the negotiations and the disagreements of a UN Climate Conference, there are spaces where open-hearted dialogue and quiet reflection, including meditation, take place.
On Saturday, attendees marched on-site to call attention to climate justice among other priorities. Meanwhile, press conferences were going on and, in the Co-Creative Reflection and Dialogue Space (CCRDS), a panel of four discussed ways to build trusting relationships to help lead the way through a profound transformation.
This small cubicle, just 25 square metres, is the brainchild of staff at Germany’s Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). Part research project and part safe space for open exchange, it offers a chance for people freely to discuss their inner values and beliefs, worldviews and experiences, as they reflect on some of the major issues of the day.
The space has hosted numerous gatherings during the first week of COP27, including a session on deep adaptation with Prof. Jem Bendell, and an interactive workshop on liberating oneself from tension and finding release through “social presencing theatre” (“From Ego to Eco”).
Introducing Saturday’s panel, Research Associate at the IASS and co-ordinator of the Brahma Kumaris (BK) Berlin Centre, Carolin Fraude (pictured above, with panellists), said building trust – for example, at work, between nations – is a major theme at COP meetings. We need to rethink our understanding of leadership, and to address the topic of transformation as we face a time of uncertainty
While Prof Heike Schroeder described how researchers successfully established one-on-one relationships during fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Dr David Dunez focussed on developing open, trusting workplace relations by loosening hierarchical structures, and on how Citizens’ Assemblies bring wisdom and creativity to local policy making in Israel.
Turning to the inner dimension, leader of the Brahma Kumaris (BK) delegation, Maureen Goodman (seen below, with Dr Martin Frick) noted that negotiators at COP meetings may experience conflict between their conscience and obligations arising from their work.
It is important to develop a relationship of ease with ourselves, to be able to trust our judgement, she said: “You need to be in tune with your spiritual identity, your conscience and inner feelings of wisdom and peace. Stop, reflect and emerge this inner being…. Become less reactive, more reflective.”
Maureen drew on her experience with the BKs: “The art of keeping an atmosphere which generates trust is something I learned from our elder Sisters. I saw how they emphasised creating an atmosphere, creating trust.”
By listening, and through our benevolent intentions, we arrive at consensus, and this lies at the heart of effective decision-making.
Dr. Martin Frick, UN World Food Programme, said trust is a “missing element” in COP talks. He argued it rests on a groundwork of facts agreed between parties, and the mistrust arising at climate change talks is, in some measure, due to the efforts of interested parties to challenge the findings of scientists.
Outside the conference room is where the “magic” happens: “Climate change becomes a uniting force, pushing people together…. making friends, helping each other out.”
The consensus conundrum
By chance, in another venue at the same time, John Kerry – the first ever US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and a former Vice President of the country – said at a press conference that some countries (not many, but “a very few”) were now pushing back on the commitment to keeping global heating to 1.5 C, as envisaged by the Paris Agreement and confirmed at Glasgow in 2021.
Clearly irritated at this reneging on a previously made agreement, Kerry went on to rattle off a raft of initiatives to accelerate climate action, including projects for renewable energy and emissions reduction in Egypt, efforts between Norway and the US to decarbonise global shipping (a major polluter), and the commitment of private finance to complement the efforts of the public sector.
Leading the way in renewables in India
Renewables were in the spotlight at an earlier press conference on ethical principles for climate action, when Golo Pilz, (below, giving a television interview last week) BK energy advisor and director of the ‘India One’ solar thermal power project, described the organisation’s pioneering role in India.
With over 30 years’ experience in the field, the BKs have brought solar steam cooking and power to their main campus, and trained engineers and technicians. They are now rolling out renewable, green energy to thousands of centres across the country.
The moral, ethical dimension is vital at climate change talks, Golo said, to bring a change of minds and hearts. Meditation helps us to change our mindset to one of love: “What I love, I don’t destroy.”
Moderator Sonja Ohlsson summarised: “(Ours is) an outside-in narrative ….. from climate action to the values we hold… and to the root of awareness.”