CWS President and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough at the March on Climate Change in Washington, D.C. during Pope Francis’s visit in the fall of 2015. Photo: Megan Cagle/CWS

Church World Service is proud to have contributed to some of the most significant global advances made in 2015 on climate change.

As Pope Francis published his Laudato Si – an Encyclical on Climate Change – and then addressed the U.S. Congress and the United Nations – CWS joined faith-based organizations to promote the positive messages on climate justice. Through blogs, social media and participation in interfaith events, CWS contributed to the global faith call for policies that protect the poor and vulnerable; preserve ecology and prioritize indigenous people, women and children, migrants and refugees – all disproportionately affected by climate change.

In the build up to the UN’s 21st Convention on Climate Change, the Rev. John L. McCullough travelled to Kenya to address Pan African parliamentarians, faith and civil society leaders on climate and reaffirm shared commitments to addressing climate in domestic and international programming, policy and advocacy work. In Paris, 195 countries in the Paris Agreement hammered out the outline of a joint framework on climate, including a pledge to deliver climate finance to the world’s poorest countries and to work towards a “1.5 degree world.” This is an important breakthrough, because limiting warming to two degrees Celsius would not prevent dangerous climate change.

Since then, an historic number of rich and poor nations alike – including the United States – have contributed to the Green Climate Fund, which aims through grants and loans to prioritize less-developed, African and Small Island States to prepare for and adapt to climate change. The continued support by the U.S. Government comes after months of concerted effort by CWS and its allies to raise the profile of the GCF on Capitol Hill and urge Congress to honor President Obama’s GCF pledge of $500 million. It also signals the growing Congressional acceptance that climate change poses real and present risks to the planet, and the continuing need for US leadership in finding solutions.

Record and rising temperatures throughout the world in early 2016 underscore the continued urgency of proactive United States engagement on the climate. CWS continues to raise public awareness on climate change and to prioritize climate advocacy across all areas of its work.

Through our advocacy work with Congress and grasstops mobilization of faith leaders in key Congressional districts, we have helped protect the humanitarian and poverty-focused international aid budget from cuts and achieved increases in key accounts such as development assistance. Our efforts help ensure that the United States provides agricultural assistance for small-scale farmers, emergency food aid, water and sanitation support, refugee assistance, climate adaptation, global health care and basic education for vulnerable people in low-income communities around the world.

Our CWS team joins more than 40 participants in the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance. Among the members are several CWS member communions, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church.

For many years CWS has led the ecumenical faith community’s effort – as part of a broader coalitional movement — for the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. The fruit of these decades of continued advocacy was realized in 2015 with the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

In 2016, CWS participated in advisory sessions with the White House prior to President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba and with Dr. Shaun Casey, U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs, prior to his Cuba trip. CWS continues to advocate with Congress for a complete end to the trade embargo and to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba for all Americans.

CWS advocates with the White House and Congress for robust U.S. efforts toward a just and sustainable peace to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, reconstruction of Gaza, a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel and respect for human rights in the region.

In April, the Rev. John McCullough attended a gathering in Atlanta on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entitled “Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence: The Atlanta Summit of American and Palestinian Churches.” This was a high-level meeting with heads of the churches and ecumenical organizations in Jerusalem and the United States. The Jerusalem church leaders urged the U.S. churches to do more toward bringing an end to the occupation and to achieve a just resolution of the conflict.