Paris, Climate Change and Spiritual Leadership December 2015

It is essential that political, religious and economic problems be presented in terms of the spiritual welfare of humanity and a truer interpretation be given to the meaning of the word "spiritual". The time is long past when a line of demarcation can be drawn between the religious world and the political or the economic. The reason for the problems of our time is the fact that spiritually minded men and women have not assumed — as their spiritual duty and responsibility— the leadership of the people. They have left the power in the wrong hands and permitted the selfish and the undesirable to lead.”
Alice A. Bailey, Problems of Humanity, pp. 168 –69 [adapted].


Among the themes we want to ponder this evening is the question: ‘To what extent are the spiritually minded people now taking a leadership role in human affairs?’ And we want to do this in the light of everything that has been happening in Paris over the past month and all that this symbolizes.

One month ago today the attacks took place in Paris – the City of Light. It was quickly followed by attacks in Mali and elsewhere, including here in California, and today in Australia. This has produced a wave of fear throughout humanity; it is already producing a backlash of hatred in many parts of the world against Muslims, and refugees from Syria and elsewhere.

One is reminded of the phrase in the Bhagavad Gita: Whenever there is a withering of the law and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself. For the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of such as do evil, for the firm establishing of the law, I come to birth age after age.

It’s important to acknowledge the seriousness of the emergence of forces that stand for hatred and in extreme opposition to love. These are critical times. We can expect love to triumph – yet what the crisis demands is that all good people – all spiritually minded folk - assume some responsibility to express and act in small ways for their love of humanity, their trust of the basic goodness of human beings – and for their love of life – all life. This is a crisis of the will – we might consider the phrase from the meditation on the reappearance:” Endeavour to concentrate your fixed intention to serve and to spread love in your surroundings and realise that insofar as you can do these things you are attempting to blend your personal will with the divine Will”.

The other side of the Paris story is of course the Climate Summit – it is now midnight in Paris at the end of what was supposed to be the final day of the Summit – and the negotiations are still going. The text for the final agreement is due to be presented at 9 AM tomorrow morning after delegates worked through the night on Thursday until 6:00 AM.

What I thought might be useful is first to review the summit itself – because a great deal has happened during these past two weeks of negotiation. Then after a brief review of some of the process and the agreement as it now stands –we might reflect a little on the leadership of the spiritually minded.

First – let’s briefly review the Summit. The goal is for governments to sign up to an agreement that will come into force on 2020. The draft agreement  that was presented late afternoon on Thursday and was under intense negotiation through the night  was reduced to 27 pages – at the start of the day on Wednesday it was 16 pages longer – a shorter document means that there are less issues that are undecided and still being negotiated.  At Copenhagen countries were entrenched in their positions much earlier in the process and had stopped talking. So all the signs are that there will be an agreement during the weekend and this will be a significant achievement because the politics of reaching agreement between all the governments of the world is so complex. At the moment it looks as if the agreement will include reference to limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and seeking to keep it to no more than 1.5C (already it is 1 degree above pre-industrial levels). There is also a long term goal of decarbonisation, albeit without firm dates or targets; a five-year cycle for reviewing emissions cuts to ensure countries keep to their stated goals and gradually increase their ambitions, and clear rules on transparency – meaning clear and regular information and reviews of progress in achieving national climate goals. Undecided issues include: how industrialised countries and the rising economies should divide responsibilities for dealing with climate change; a consensus on finance to flow to poor countries to assist with adaptation and response to natural disasters caused by global warming; and what the review process will be to ensure countries keep to their stated goals and gradually increase their ambitions.  

The ‘high ambition coalition’ now links  over 100 countries including the EU, USA, and 79 members of the African, Pacific and Caribbean group of states.,  – it is an informal group committed to an ambitious agreement including a target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. This coalition is a sign of principled leadership from governments.

The Summit is witnessing an incredible focus of energy – government delegations really talking – small groups forming to try to resolve deadlocks – whole delegations talking and discussing. Ban Ki-moon has referred to the talks as the most difficult and complicated negotiations he has ever been involved in. But it’s not just governments that are negotiating and pressuring national delegations.

One of the events at Paris has been a summit of leaders of cities and regions from 5 continents representing local and regional government for about one fifth of the world’s population.  They have issued an Action Agenda and a Five Year Vision statement. 2,255 cities and 150 regions (representing 17% of the global population) have already registered climate commitments. 360 large cities are now linked in a Compact of Mayors united in action to pursue climate targets; 17 major cities are linked in a Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance aiming to achieve 80% of GHG reductiions by 2050 in comparison with 2000.

Business is also involved. At the Lima-Paris Action Agenda Focus on Business, 400  business leaders called for a strong Paris climate change agreement to help them implement the unprecedented set of cross-cutting corporate actions on climate which they are taking in key areas such as carbon pricing, finance, responsible policy engagement and science-based target setting.

On December 2, a broad coalition of nations, river basin organizations, business and civil society announced the creation of the international Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation to make water systems – the very foundation of sustainable human development - more resilient to climate impacts.

And civil society organizations that have been pushing governments on climate change action have been hugely present at the Paris Summit – these include all the well know groups like; Care international; Oxfam international; Greenpeace; Avaaz and so on. Youth climate activists and green campaigners at the talks staged a sit-in on Wednesday afternoon after the draft text was published. They clapped and chanted “we are unstoppable! Another world is possible” and held placards saying “justice, just transition” and “ambition: fair shares for 1.5C”. (Guardian) Tomorrow there are plans to defy the protest ban and for thousands to stand along a 2km route in Paris in support of a strong agreement and calling out the fossil fuel companies.

Taking all this as a whole – if we consider the  major summits in the past during the period when AAB was writing the situation this summit in Paris is hugely different. Past conferences were entirely the work of governments (and only a small handful of governments). Today spiritually minded people in governments, in civil society, in local government, in business and the professions are taking responsibility – we need to hold this in our meditations and to visualize the empowerment of the will amongst the spiritually minded inclusive thinkers.

One final thought. Imagine 40,000 participants in these two weeks of negotiation, summits, events, processes. Think of the number of spiritually minded people whose lives, as a result of the heady atmosphere of the event, will be changed – whose sense of purpose and direction will be deepened and whose sense of future possibilities will be greatly enhanced.

This is what it means today for humanity as a whole to be immersed in the process of building right human relations. It is also a sign of the multitude ways in which the developing sense of universality is awakening humanity to its destined task, becoming as a species, a loving intermediary between the higher states of planetary consciousness and the sub-human kingdoms.

It’s a very gritty grainy process – far from the old idealistic days of all peace and love – as bit by bit ancient habits of separation, and all the powers invested in separation – are being challenged, battled and called to account. The transition is in part a battle – but its not like any old battle – it is a battle of ethics, values and vision –and in order to truly engage in the battle every human being who senses something of the momentous significance of what is taking place is called  to begin to see their own  life as contributing to the growing power of love and Life in the world. It’s less a battle against something (like ISIS or like ‘the banks)’ and more a battle for relationships based on a sense of universality and wholeness. 

A Talk given at the new Moon meeting at Lucis trust, new York, December 11, 2015