There is nothing like a church community for getting results once it has got the bit between its teeth.
At Christian Aid, we have long appreciated this, and the Green Church Awards were an opportunity for us to see how wholeheartedly churches across the country were working on environmental projects. The things we saw showed how relatively small actions by churches can make a large difference in their communities.
There were two awards, however, both sponsored by Christian Aid, that were not given this year, because of to a disappointing number of entries. Both of these were for international action, to be awarded to a church and to a young people’s group that could successfully demonstrate the link between poverty in developing countries and the environment, and was taking action to cut carbon emissions as a result.
The link between climate change and poverty is not one that most people make easily, even though, for years, we have been aware that climate-related disasters have hit the poorest people hardest. Poor farmers in Central America, for example, have lost harvests and animals to unusually severe weather; while in Bangladesh, rising sea levels have driven poor fishermen and their families away from their coastal homes, leaving them to camp dangerously and illegally on embankments.
It is also clear that climate change raises important issues of justice. It is the millions of people who have contributed least to global warming in the form of carbon emissions who are now suffering its effects. For them, it is not about lifestyle; it is about life itself.
There is still a task to be done. We must inspire those churches that are already engaged in environmental activities to look beyond their local communities. Believing, with St Paul, that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer together with it, we need to open our eyes to the devastation caused by global warming worldwide, and to act accordingly. This means making significant sacrifices in our own carbon consumption, and undertaking campaigning on issues where governments and businesses can be persuaded to bring about change.
We remain confident that the churches have the vision, the will, and the capability to help the world’s poorest people to cope with climate change, and to take a lead on tackling this injustice. It is what we are now called to do.
The Revd Matthew Reed is Church and Community Director for Christian Aid.