Climate Change: the challenge to us as Christians
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place 31 October - 12 November 2021. Global leaders will come together to plan how countries can tackle climate change. As Christians, we understand that stewardship - caring for God's creation - is an issue of justice. We are called to value what God has given us.
The Diocesan Eco Group has published an open letter calling on the Diocese to be stewards of Creation and not contribute to its destruction. Read the letter below.
Bishop June, in support of the work of the Eco Group, urges clergy to champion climate change, to engage in the work the Eco Group and pray for the success of the UN climate summit.
Read Bishop June's letter to clergyDownload
Diocesan Eco Group
On behalf of the diocese’s Eco Group (an informal network of clergy and laity concerned about Creation Care) I write about the latest assessment of climate change, published by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). You will have seen the media coverage. The IPCC draws together the best assessment of the work of thousands of scientists around the world. This link to the IPCC’s press release, explains how thoroughly it works:
The situation is grave. The evidence is irrefutable: “Human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” Climate change threatens to reduce human societies to chaos. The unprecedented heatwaves, droughts and wildfires in the USA, Canada, Turkey, Greece and Siberia, the catastrophic floods in Germany and our own experience of Storm Dennis in South Wales last year are but a foretaste of what is in store for many more of us if we continue “business as usual.”
Meanwhile, out of the headlines, the day-to-day impacts of climate change, famine, water stress and sea level rise, continue to intensify, particularly in the global south.
The number of climate refugees will become unmanageable if climate change continues unabated.
Climate change also threatens to wreak havoc on Creation. The WWF 2020 global Living Planet Index shows an average 68% fall in monitored populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish between 1970 and 2016. The web of life that sustains us is unravelling.
Fundamentally, climate change is a profound challenge to us as Christians, morally and spiritually.
We are called to steward the Creation of which we are part, caring for it, not to preside over its degradation.
And we are called to love our neighbour. Discipleship includes feeding the hungry and helping the homeless (Matt. 25) but the challenge for Jesus’ disciples in 2021 is more complex. Our lifestyles must change if we are to stop contributing to climate change and its effects. The window to address this threat is closing rapidly.
Action we need to take
We have already taken the first small step by becoming a Bronze level Eco Diocese, and the diocese thanks all who helped to achieve that. By the end of December, the Church in Wales will also have completed its divestment from fossil fuel production. We now need to go much further as a diocese, so that as churches and as individuals, in the light of climate change, we can show how to live with reverence for Creation and love for our neighbour.
- All congregations need to work towards becoming Eco Churches, first at Bronze level and then at Silver; we already have a number of congregations with Silver Eco Church awards. The criteria for Eco Church include action on climate change, in terms of church buildings, worship and so on, and also underline the value of churches engaging with their local communities on climate change, and of the importance of encouraging elected representatives at all levels to give a high priority to acting on climate change.
- This spring the Church in Wales Governing Body agreed that climate change is an emergency, and that as a Church we should cut our own emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero as soon as possible. Work is underway between the Province and dioceses to develop a programme of action to help us do this. You will hear more before long!
- Now is also the time to address the challenging decisions we need to take in our own lives, as families and individuals, to cut the emissions from our homes, from our travel, and from what we buy and eat, and to consider where we invest our money.
- Most immediately, I would urge all of you to pray for the success of the UN climate summit in Glasgow this November (which goes under the jargon title of COP26). In Paris in 2015, governments from across the world reached agreement that the rise in average global temperature should be limited to 1.5 degrees centigrade if possible. Since then, governments have failed to commit to the action needed to achieve that. COP26 must now do this. But with negotiators coming from nearly 200 countries, and with so many diverging interests, agreement in Glasgow will be far from easy. I hope all Ministry Areas will pray for success in the run-up to COP26 in November.
But we need to be pragmatic. Scientists have been warning about the threat posed by climate change for more than thirty years and, so far, we have not seen the necessary level of action. COP26 may not agree all that is needed and the temptation to bury our heads in the sand may be strong. But our faith should bolster us for the time has come for Christians to set an example. We can transition to net zero emissions and live harmoniously with Creation.
The UK’s statutory Climate Change Committee’s report from 2019 (https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/ ) detail how it can be done, while still enabling us all to have a decent life and enjoy a much cleaner environment than now. The costs of making the switch will be substantial, but they are far, far less than the costs of doing nothing. And the costs will only increase the longer we delay.
I am confident that, as Christians, we can, by our example individually and as congregations, set the right example and serve as faithful, pioneering, disciples.
Eco Diocese Group
- Revd Gavin Douglas (Chair)
- Paul Booth
- Huw Brodie
- Revd Michael Gable
- Revd Peter Lewis
- Nerys Beckett
- Revd Maggie Thorne