For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. The gathering will review the commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement, and urge governments to increase their climate action. With the UK as President, COP26 takes place in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November, 2021.
In the run up to COP26, Faith in Leadership and St Benet's Hall are convening an interactive online gathering to explore the distinctive ways that faith leaders can support the realisation of the summit goals.
We have convened a panel of expert friends to comment on the intersection between faith, leadership and the environment.
Together, we will address such questions as:
Our panel will comprise of:
Rev'd Charlotte Bannister-Parker
Founder of Hope4Creation; Member of the Oxford Diocesan Environment Task Group
The Rev’d Charlotte Bannister-Parker is Associate Priest of The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford and Founder & Chair of The Green Team. She is also the Eco-adviser to Faith in Leadership and is completing her doctorate on congregational response to the climate change at the School of Theology, Boston University, USA. As a visiting Research Fellow at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford Charlotte is developing the Hope4Creation Foundation which will look at the relationship between Theology, Education and Action.
She is currently working with UCL’s Climate Action Unit to create a Hope4Creation course to inspire faith-based organisations into taking practical action to address the global ecological crisis. She is also a member of the Dioceses of Oxford’s Environmental Task Group and has been invited to be a Research Scholar at the Laudato Si Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford which conducts cutting-edge multidisciplinary research for societal transformation on the most pressing ecological and social issues of our day.
Charlotte’s background covers both faith and environmental issues. She is the Founder of the Oxford Annual Interfaith Friendship Walk and an advisor of The Oxford Foundation and former Trustee of the International Interfaith Centre. Her Master’s Degree from the Centre for Overseas Research and Development, Durham University, focused on the positive environmental impact of bee-keeping and women’s education in the Himalayas. Prior to ordination she spent many years a producer of documentaries on environmental and development documentaries for North South Production, Television Trust for the Environment and Central TV, making programmes for Channel 4, UNICEF, and many other international NGOs. Charlotte is currently working with Earthwatch and the Big Give to create a number memorial ‘Tiny Forest’ across the UK in honour of all those who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Director, Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary
Karenna Gore is the founder and executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Karenna formed CEE in 2015 to address the moral and spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis. Working at the intersection of faith, ethics, and ecology, she guides the Center’s public programs, educational initiatives, and movement-building. She also is an ex officio faculty member of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Her previous experience includes serving as director of Union Forum at Union Theological Seminary, a platform to for theological scholarship to engage with civic discourse and social change. She also worked at the legal center of Sanctuary for Families, which serves victims of domestic violence and trafficking, was director of community affairs for the Association to Benefit Children, which provides early childhood education and other services for New York City families living in poverty, and was an associate with the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
Karenna is the author of “Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America” (2006), and has written for numerous publications, including Slate, El Pais (Spain) and the New York Times. She serves on the boards of the Association to Benefit Children, Pando Populus, which helps local communities leverage their creative and intellectual resources for sustainability, the Sweetwater Cultural Center, an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to promoting the education, health and welfare of Indigenous Peoples and to preserve their cultures and ceremonial practiced locally, regionally, and around the Western Hemisphere, and Riverkeeper, an organization that protects and restores the Hudson River and safeguards drinking water. She is also an expert in the United Nations’ Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network, an online platform of practitioners, academics, and researchers.
A graduate of Harvard College, Karenna earned her law degree from Columbia Law School and a master’s in social ethics from Union Theological Seminary. She lives in New York City with her three children.
Britain’s longest-serving environmental correspondent
Geoffrey Lean is Britain’s longest-serving environmental correspondent, having pioneered reporting on the subject some 45 years ago.
Lean is currently Contributing Editor at the Daily Telegraph where he has written a half page column for six years. He has specialised in the field for over 45 years, writing for the Yorkshire Post, Observer, Independent on Sunday and the Telegraph, and contributing freelance pieces for publications ranging from the New Statesman to the Daily Mail.
Lean has won a number of awards including scoop of the year in both the National and London Press Club awards, The Martha Gelhorn Prize for investigative journalism, and Britain’s premier award for raising environmental awareness.
Lean has been around almost since the beginning of the environmental movement, and has known most of the major players. He can speak authoritatively, and at times provocatively, on a whole range of issues from the countryside to climate change, energy to environmentalism, pollution to population growth and world poverty.
Lean has travelled to over 70 countries on all six continents. He was one of the first group of journalists ever allowed to tour the then closed Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan; flew through China with Prince Philip in his private plane; cruised along the Greenland coast with the Eastern Orthodox Pope; and got stuck on the lower slopes of Mt Everest when Sir Edmund Hillary failed to turn up for an appointment. He has had breakfast with Willi Brandt, lunch with Michael Gorbachev, drinks with Margaret Thatcher, and dinner with Bianca Jagger.
Lean was in a coma for a month and became a quadriplegic for six months after an operation went wrong 24 years ago. He is rare in being able to remember his coma vividly and has spoken and written about this unique experience. He also survived tongue cancer and a quadruple heart bypass. To cap it all, his house burnt down; he built a pioneering carbon-negative one in its place.
Founder Director of Bhumi Global; Co-Chair of UN Multifaith Advisory Council
Gopal D. Patel is the Co-Founder and Director of Bhumi Global, a Hindu environmental non-profit organisation based in New York City. Founded in 2020, Bhumi Global builds on the work and experience of the Bhumi Project, which was an initiative of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, where Gopal led the work across India, Europe and North America. Bhumi Global works to engage, educate, and empower people and communities to address the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Gopal also serves as an advisor and consultant to a number of other religious, environmental and development organizations. These include the WWF Beliefs and Values Programme and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He is currently Co-chair of the UN Multi-faith Advisory Council and a member of the Advisory Board to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
After graduating university Gopal spent 2 years living, studying and serving in Hindu ashrams in India and England. He also spent 2 years serving as a Students’ Chaplain at Imperial College, London. Since 2018 he has been based in the New York City Metropolitan Area.
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