THE Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has called on the Church of England to declare a “climate emergency” as concern about the lack of action to tackle climate change continues to grow.
The Bishop was responding after Pope Francis became the latest figure to follow the UK Parliament and a host of local councils in declaring that the global climate was in a state of emergency.
Dr Croft said on Monday: “There is no time to lose. The growing climate catastrophe is the greatest crisis of the age; the time to act is now. The science has long been unequivocal. We are now seeing impacts across our world that make the threats tangible for all to see. Only this week a startling photograph showed rapidly melting sea ice in Greenland.
“We are on a path to three or four or more degrees of global warming: a devastating future for all of us if we allow that to happen. Radical change is needed, yet there has been insufficient energy or interest across the Church in recent years. We need to call this for what it is — a climate emergency — and make the adjustment to our Church and individual lives so that we can put the hard questions to others with authenticity.
“That requires each of us to recognise the truth about our current lifestyles, repenting and seeking genuine change. It’s time to take a daily decision to focus on climate action. There is nothing else that matters as much as this.”
The Pope’s declaration followed a meeting of fossil-fuel executives at the Vatican which called on governments to introduce stricter carbon pricing to reduce emissions. Pope Francis said: “In our meeting last year, I expressed the concern that ‘civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation.’ Today, a radical energy transition is needed to save our common home.”
The executives, who included chief executives from Exxon, Shell, and BP, among others, made no pledges to reduce emissions or set out any timetable for action.
A former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, told them: “What could be more cynical than still seeking to exploit fossil-fuel reserves when the scientific evidence is abundantly clear that we need to end all combustion of fossil fuels by 2050?”
These sentiments were echoed by James Buchanan, the campaign manager at Operation Noah, a Christian charity that campaigns for churches to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies. “Pope Francis has stated clearly that the vast majority of fossil-fuel reserves must remain in the ground, warning that energy use must not destroy civilisation.
“Meanwhile, the fossil-fuel industry is driving the world towards climate catastrophe, as it plans to spend nearly $5 trillion on exploration and extraction from new oil and gas fields in the next decade.
“As major oil companies such as BP and Shell continue to spend huge sums lobbying against climate action, we should not place our faith in those companies to solve the climate emergency.”
Responding to the Pope’s intervention, a Church of England spokesperson said: “The Church of England echoes these concerns, and has stepped up its Environment Programme to address the unprecedented threat currently facing the global community. Through its Environmental Working Group, the Church advises on the most effective steps for parishes, schools, chaplaincies, and communities to play their part in safeguarding God’s creation.”
Dr Croft wrote for the Church Times website earlier this month about the Time Is Now mass lobby of Parliament taking place on 26 June in Westminster, at which more than 10,000 people from around the UK are expected to meet their MPs to press the case for action on climate change. He wrote: “I will be there with many of our senior team, and, I hope, hundreds of people from the diocese of Oxford. It’s good that each of us takes responsibility for our own waste and energy.
“It’s great that our churches are having energy audits and thinking about their investments. But to deal with the greatest crisis of the age — the growing climate catastrophe — we also need to make our voice heard with many, many others.”