Churches urged to push greener living

09 October 2008

by Bill Bowder

Is plenty now too much? A shopper makes his choice in a supermarket in Boston, in the United States AP

Is plenty now too much? A shopper makes his choice in a supermarket in Boston, in the United States AP

CHURCHES are in a strong position to help achieve the change in attitudes necessitated by climate change, a United Nations climate expert has told a church conference.

Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, UN vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the European Christian Environmental Network’s assembly in Truggio, near Milan, in Italy, that the risks linked to climate change had increased “dramatically” since 2001. A rise in the average global temperature of 2°C was “a strong probability, and this will move us closer to a major extinction,” he said.

“Nevertheless, there is no fatalistic view of the future,” the Professor, who is a member of the institute of astronomy and geophysics at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, said.

“There are ways to reduce emissions, and Churches can contribute to solutions by proposing changes in lifestyle and behaviour patterns. We must look to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions by around 95 per cent.”

In its final communiqué, the assembly said that acting against climate change was “a sign that Christ the Word of God comes into the world to give life and not death, and our appointed task is to preach this good news to all creation. The roots of human destruction of the environment are to be found not just in actions, but in our most deep-seated attitudes.”

The Network’s concerns were also reflected across the Atlantic. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, said in a lecture in New York on 30 September that insisting on out-of-season “long-distance food” was limiting the diets of poorer nations.

Food and justice, environment and poverty, “corn and starvation in sub-Saharan Africa”, were connected. Churches needed to do the “political work” to ensure just and peaceful communites, she said.

Tara Garnett, of the Centre for Environmental Strategy, and the University of Surrey, in her report Cooking Up a Storm, has linked food and eating patterns to “possibly a third” of greenhouse-gas emissions.


There were technological “fixes” that would help keep down emissions, but, given a rising world population, those would never be enough, she wrote in her report, published in September and available online. What was needed was to make “very substantial reductions” in the amount of meat and dairy products people ate.

People in developed countries needed to cut back to half a kilo (just over 1 lb) of meat a week, and one litre (1¾ pt) of milk: the equivalent of two sausages and a cheese sandwich every other day.

“We need to consume less ‘stuff’ overall,” she warned. In the West, one billion people were overweight, while, in developing countries, 840 million people, including one in four children, did not get enough to eat.

People in developed countries could help stop global warming by the way they shopped and cooked. Rather than buy “fragile” food that needed refrigeration people could buy “robust” foods that did not spoil easily. Asking for less choice meant foods would not be produced expensively out of season. There was also a “moderate to high” priority not to waste food, because food thrown away represented “embedded emissions”.

The developing world would need help to deal with these economic changes, she said.

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