I want to draw the attention of readers of this blog and those connected with the Diocese in Europe to an important statement that we bishops of the Church of England issued on the environment and climate change last September 16. It underscores several important points from a Christian perspective:
- the theological basis for our care for God's creation and the link between climate change and justice for the poor
- the need to form partnerships with others, including interfaith partnerships, in order to address the crisis together
- the call to prayerful reflection on the decisions the politicians and world leaders must make in Copenhagen in December (COP 15) and to give these leaders an ambitious mandate
- the Christian vocation to live simply and responsibly
If a fire breaks out and spreads into thorn bushes so that it burns stocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution". (Exodus 22:6)
As Christians we are called to love God, follow the path of Christ and love our neighbour as ourselves. From these aspects of Christian vocation and witness we derive an ethic and practice of care for God’s creation and action for justice and peace in safeguarding the environment on which all depend, which belongs to God, and which is in our care as faithful stewards and servants of God.
As a Church we recognise the gravity of the ecological problems facing our world and the need to deal with
them in ways that offer justice, hope and sustainable livelihood to the poor of the earth. We are committed in the spirit of the Christian faith to work with others, especially those of other faiths, for sustainable development – development that brings justice and decent living standards to the poor and marginalised, that uses wisely the resources of the earth, that safeguards the richness of God’s good Earth for future generations.
With less than four months to go before the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, in December 2009, this year’s Time for Creation provides an obvious occasion for the Church to join with others across Europe in prayerful reflection on those political decisions that need to be taken by governments to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation.
Securing an agreement capable of limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will require an extraordinary effort that is without precedent in global environmental politics. It will also require a radical change in mentality and awareness in society as a whole. Now more than ever the Church is called to demonstrate its visible commitment to care for the integrity of creation, by living simply and sustainably itself and by pressing governments to provide effective leadership internationally.
Energy saving toolkits launched on 11th June 2009 as part of the Church of England’s Shrinking the Footprint initiative provides a valuable new resource to assist the whole body of the Church to meet its stated ambition of reducing its environment footprint by 80 per cent by 2050. The launch this week of the Climate Justice Fund – a web-based tool that enables individuals, parishes and dioceses here in the UK to calculate their own carbon footprint and pay compensation for anything over their share – reminds us that important though mitigation is, our actions can’t begin and end there.
We have a responsibility to protect and assist those vulnerable communities that are already experiencing, through no fault of their own, the devastating impacts of a changing climate. Leaving the world’s poor to sink or swim with their own meagre resources in the face of the threat posed by climate change is clearly morally unacceptable. That is why at its heart climate change is an issue of global justice.
These initiatives, together with the significant Church of England and Anglican Communion statements, and commitments already made by the General Synod, have been assembled by Theos, a Christian think tank, for presentation at the Copenhagen Conference and publication on the Shrinking the Footprint website.
Taken together, these efforts illustrate the Church’s understanding that responding to the challenge of climate change requires both changes in lifestyle and also financial compensation to those most affected. Whilst it will be for governments meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree an ambitious and deliverable successor to the Kyoto regime for global reductions in carbon emissions, we have a part to play by joining with others across the world in providing political leaders with an ambitious and compelling mandate to act justly and responsibly.
16 September 2009, Oxford