Someday soon, Tupou Kelemeni fears her ancestral home could be washed away.
Pacific island nations are among the countries under immediate threat from global warming and Kelemeni, a United Methodist from Hawaii and native of Tonga, is concerned about all of them.
As a member of the United Methodist Women’s delegation to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, she had a chance to interview young people from the Solomon Islands and the Maldives Islands, in the Indian Ocean, about the situation.
“They are in the frontlines of being washed away by the oceans,” she explained. “When they spoke about it, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I can see that happening to the young men and women in Tonga.”
By the summit’s final day on Dec. 18, it seemed unlikely that such threats would be addressed in the near future. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Copenhagen the day before. She declared that the United States would contribute to the annual $100 billion cost of helping poor nations adapt to climate change, but that commitment came with significant conditions. In particular, the United States and China remained at odds over aspects of any agreement.
While United Methodists traveled to Copenhagen hopeful that a new agreement could be negotiated among the representatives of nearly 200 nations, they were more focused on providing ecumenical solidarity to the poor nations most affected by climate change.
In addition to Kelemeni, the denomination’s participants included the Rev. Pat Watkins, Esmeralda Brown and Pamela Sparr, representing United Methodist Women; Meghan Roth, John Hill and Liberato Bautista of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society; and the Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service.