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Campaigning for a greener planet begins in earnest

19 June 2015


Rallying cry: a group of the climate-change campaigners who assembled in Westminster for a mass lobby on Wednesday

Rallying cry: a group of the climate-change campaigners who assembled in Westminster for a mass lobby on Wednesday

A WAVE of climate-change activism washed into Westminster on Wednesday as Christians and members of other faiths joined a mass lobby of Parliament, ahead of the Pope's encyclical on the environment.

Thousands gathered in Westminster to urge the Government to back radical steps to tackle climate change at an international summit in Paris later this year.

A Lambeth Declaration calling on people of faith to join the campaign against climate change was also launched on Wednesday. The document, signed by dozens of religious leaders, urged faith institutions to redouble their efforts to cut emissions, as well as demanding that the Government works to mitigate the impact of rising temperatures on the poorest countries.

On Thursday, after the Church Times went to press, Pope Francis was due to release Laudato Si: On the Care of our Common Home, an encyclical urging the world to make drastic lifestyle changes.

What appeared to be a draft of the encyclical was leaked to an Italian magazine on Monday. It suggested that Pope Francis would call on people everywhere to reduce energy consumption and change lifestyles to avoid "unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem".

He was also expected to suggest setting up an international body to reduce pollution and organise development in the poorest regions of the world. Humans are largely responsible for changing the climate and raising global temperatures, the encyclical was expected to say.

Those who deny climate change exists, including certain Christians, come in for criticism, and are described in the draft as standing in the way of solving the problem.

Speaking in St Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Francis said he hoped his encyclical would encourage everyone to "grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has entrusted to us".

Released ahead of Laudato Si, the Lambeth Declaration has been signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and dozens of others including the Archbishop of Wales, the Rt Revd Barry Morgan; the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke; the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis; and representatives from the Methodist, United Reformed, Scottish Episcopal, Lutheran, and Pentecostal Churches, Reform Judaism, Sikh groups, Zoroastrians, and Muslims.

A poll commissioned by Tearfund to mark Wednesday's activism suggested that British Christians believed climate change to be the biggest political or social issue the world will face in the next ten years.

The survey, which took place after last month's election, found that 28 per cent of Christians identified, unprompted, climate change as the world's most pressing issue. The next was immigration and asylum-seekers, chosen by 16 per cent of the Christians polled.

But when asked what was the most significant issue facing the UK, only four per cent answered climate change, making it only the 14th most pressing concern, below things inequality (suggested by 27 per cent), the erosion of Christian values (18 per cent), and immigration (14 per cent).

Tearfund is among more than 100 charities, including dozens of Christian organisations, who have combined to form the Climate Coalition, which organised the demonstrations in Westminster on Wednesday.

As well as calling on the Government to support a global agreement to ban fossil-fuel emissions by 2050, the protesters also demanded an end to pollution from coal, and investment in clean energy and better-insulated homes.

After gathering outside Parliament, many of the activists went to a service at St Margaret's, Westminster. The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said during the service that Christians were speaking out to say that they cared for God's creation.

"It is our Christian concern together as the Church. It is the concern of people of all faiths. It is our human concern in solidarity with all people," he said. "In the last 150 years we have burned fossil fuels that took one billion years to lay down in the earth. The earth cannot sustain this level of consumption."

As climate change disproportionately affected the world's poorest nations - through rising sea levels, increasing numbers of storms, changing rainfall, and drought - the British Church needed to act now on their behalf, Bishop Holtam said.

The Paris summit must also produce "fair, ambitious, accountable and binding climate change agreements, nationally and internationally," he concluded.

At the Bonn meeting last week, international negotiators worked on a new global climate deal to be signed later this year in Paris.

Negotiators were trying to whittle down the text that will make up the final agreement for Paris. In a rare intervention, the co-chairs of the negotiations were asked to go away and develop a more workable document ahead of the next meeting in August.

Christian Aid's senior climate-change adviser, Mohamed Adow, said that this in itself was a welcome development, as it showed that countries recognised the need to get a move on if they were to complete the work required before Paris.


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