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Indigenous leader to join Rome climate talks


When global faith leaders and scientists gather in Rome later this year to set out their vision for tackling climate change, local Indigenous people will also have a voice at the table.

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Adelaide’s John Lochowiak, who is chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), said he was honoured to receive an invitation to participate in the meeting and share the experiences of Australia’s Indigenous people.

Convened by the Holy See and the British and Italian Embassies, the October 4 meeting will make proposals for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) being held in Glasgow in November.

It will provide leaders of religions and spiritual traditions the opportunity to showcase the action being taken by people of faith to ‘green’ their operations at a central and local level, and to encourage individuals to take specific actions to slow global temperature rises.

To prepare for the Rome gathering, Mr Lochowiak has been participating in a series of virtual meetings where he has been able to convey Indigenous peoples’ strong connection to the land, the importance of living in harmony with and caring for the earth.

He has also highlighted some of the issues being faced by Indigenous Australians due to the climate crisis.

“As Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ outlines, ecological damage threatens all of us but particularly the poor and the marginalised,” he said.

“The meeting in Rome is a significant opportunity for religious leaders to once again raise their voices in defence of the future of this earth.

“Through the virtual meetings I have been explaining how NATSICC as a national body is working with State councils to address significant environmental issues and to create awareness about the impact climate change will have on the entire planet – on humans, animals and plants.”

In a briefing paper for the Rome meeting, organisers said it was important for all religions and spiritual traditions to “embrace, respect and care for creation”.

“The coronavirus crisis demonstrates that universal solidarity is needed in the face of a serious threat to human life,” the meeting organisers said.

“The present ecological crisis requires a similarly collective approach. When the planet is sick, we all fall ill because we are an integral part of the whole. Health and climate are common goods: pandemics and environmental disasters do not respect national boundaries.

“Common action is needed for our common wellbeing. Humanity still has the ability to work together to ‘build back better’ by taking the path to net zero and by supporting a green recovery.”

Mr Lochowiak said at this stage due to the pandemic he was unsure if he would attend the Rome meeting in person, but provision would be made for virtual attendance if needed.

The COP26 conference will be held in Glasgow from November 1-12, with the Youth4 Climate event and pre-COP Summit scheduled to be in Milan from September 28 to October 2. Among the aims of COP26 will be to set targets for emissions cuts by 2030 and to formulate plans for countries to adapt to the impacts of climate crisis.


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