Climate Change: “Make Our Leaders Turn Their Words into Action,” Says CWS

September 24, 2014

CWS CEO Rev. John McCullough and Kul Chandra Gautam of UNICEF at the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change Photo: Lesley Crosson / CWS

CWS CEO Rev. John McCullough and Kul Chandra Gautam of UNICEF at the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change Photo: Lesley Crosson / CWS

NEW YORK, Sept. 24, 2014 — CWS President and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough today expressed “encouragement” over the global spotlight placed on climate change at a summit held in conjunction with the Sept. 16 – Oct. 1 United Nations General Assembly here and also called for action.

McCullough, who has led the humanitarian agency’s many years of advocacy around climate change said, “This General Assembly suggests that the cloud of public, private and governmental skepticism about changes in climate is lifting. It is encouraging that under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s leadership the urgency of acting now is a message being embraced by our world leaders.”

The U.N. summit meetings were preceded by an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, held Tuesday at the Church Center for the United Nations and a Sunday climate march at which some 400,000 people from around the world — including a delegation from CWS – filled the streets of midtown Manhattan to sound the alarm about global warming.

In a speech to world leaders gathered at the U.N. summit to publicly declare their countries’ concern and commitment to addressing the problem, President Barack Obama said that the phenomenon is “one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.”

American leadership on the issue over the past five years, McCullough said “has been impressive,” but he cautioned that the challenge remains that of transforming great speeches into specific, tangible and measureable actions.”

McCullough called on global citizens to be “resolute in holding our leaders accountable,” and expressed the hope that “China, America and the community of nations will be even more innovative, aggressive and successful in the five years ahead.”

The heightened attention to climate change comes at a time when some countries, particularly those in the Pacific islands – where CWS engages in relief and development work among those most affected by climate change – already are feeling the devastating effects of global warming in the form of land being submerged by rising sea levels and soil erosion.  As a result of the increasingly volatile weather, more and more people around the world are being displaced from their communities, property is being destroyed and agriculture and food security is threatened.

“It is frightening to hear that we might be the last generation that can do something about climate change,” said McCullough, who also cautioned against any reduction in public activism around government attempts to find a just and equitable solution to the problem.

“There is no doubt that much of the impetus is the result of public outcry. And so our efforts must continue. As President Obama noted, what we fail to do today will have a direct impact on future generations.”