THE urgency of tackling climate change is “even greater than we realised”, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, has said.
Speaking at an event on Monday in the Palace of Westminster to mark the tenth anniversary of the Climate Change Act (CCA), Bishop Holtam said that “there is no question that we have to move faster” in combating climate change.
The event, “The Climate Change Act ten years on”, was a panel discussion hosted by the energy editor of The Guardian, Adam Vaughan. Taking part were Lord Deben, who chairs the Committee on Climate Change (CCC); the Liberal Democrat MP and former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Sir Edward Davey; Bishop Holtam, the C of E’s lead bishop for the environment; Meryam Omi, of Legal and General; and the RC Bishop of Salford, the Rt Revd John Arnold.
Lord Deben began by saying that the CCA was a unique all-party Act, and that “it made Paris [the Paris Agreement on climate change] possible.”
The Act gave the country, he said, “an idea of what will be done, what needs to be done, and what is being done. . . Today is a moment of celebration. . . As someone who has been involved in politics for a very long time, I know how difficult it is to do the right thing in the environmental world. Our treatment of the planet is the reason for climate change. . . We have to become entirely different
in the way we think of the world.”
Sir Edward Davey told the audience that the fact that the Act was still in place was a “crucial victory”. “The lesson from the last ten years is that the CCC needs to be even more powerful. There has been a huge amount of success — cutting down on our use of coal, and the growth of renewable energy — but, clearly, we have things to improve on.”
Brexit, however, was “an unmitigated climate change disaster”. If Britain had not been at the table for talks over the EU’s 2030 climate targets, a deal would never have been reached, he said.
Bishop Holtam said that climate change was “not simply a technical issue. We have a care for creation. Politicians have spotted that one way to gain legitimacy on this issue is to grab groups, such as faith communities; mobilising faith communities is important — they’re global.”
The important question was “How does the CCA develop so it can shape all of policy?”
Respondents to a Church Times survey last month said that climate change was second only to the NHS among the most important issues facing the UK in the next 20 years (News, 12 October).
Also last month, a report by leading scientists said that the world must reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050 if global warming is to be limited to 1.5ºC (News, 12 October).
When asked about the actions of the “Extinction Rebellion”, and people calling for tougher measures to tackle climate change (News, 23 November), Bishop Holtam said that some people were “pushing harder than some of us are comfortable with”, but that this was important.
Christians were among thousands of people protesting on the subject of climate change this month. There were dozens of arrests.
Bishop Holtam said: “Some people in the room want to make Government work, and some what to make Government braver. . . The Church of England is never going to behave like the Society of Friends on this issue — we have different roles to play.”
Lord Deben concluded: “We have to tell the truth, and not ignore the urgency”.