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Bishop of Blackburn warns that poorest could suffer in move to net-zero emissions

24 September 2021


The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, speaks in the House of Lords last week

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, speaks in the House of Lords last week

BRITAIN’s poorest citizens could become unexpected victims of the country’s efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, has said.

“It is my fear that the poorest ten per cent will be left not just behind, but feeling that they are part of the problem, when they would rather be part of the solution,” he told a House of Lords debate last week on the behavioural changes needed to meet the net-zero target.

“So far, the behaviour changes we wish to see have been inaccessible to many on low incomes, simply because they cost much more,” he said. “I believe cars that are powered without petrol or diesel are the future, and I hope to see a mix of financial incentives and legislation to encourage their uptake, and so change our choices; but they remain considerably more expensive in outlay, and then do not hold their value.”

Also, the less fortunate had to choose cheap, highly processed food grown out of season abroad over more expensive locally grown organic produce, and buy the cheapest school shirts available, instead of ones made with fairtrade cotton, the Bishop said. “Food, clothing, travel — all these remain prohibitively expensive for some.

“When we seek to change the behaviour of the whole population, we must consider how we might incentivise with price reductions, or even subsidise these things, to make them accessible to all.”

The poorest could suffer through job-losses or pay cuts when employers were forced to take on higher costs to meet the net-zero target.

He also urged the Government, in its “levelling-up” process in the north, to boost public transport where it remained inadequate, “most especially for those on low incomes who need it most”. He said that he failed to understand why spending per head in London was up to three times higher than for parts of the north.

“How can people be expected to change their behaviour and choices if the opportunity is not given them to do so? Without proper and fair investment in greener ways to travel, reliance on road travel will only increase, especially after the pandemic, which still impacts the numbers who use our trains, trams, and buses.”

Diocese cuts fossil-fuel investments. The diocese of Truro no longer invests in funds directly linked to fossil fuels. The diocesan lead on creation care, the Bishop of St Germans, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, said: “We are proud to be able to say we no longer invest in companies whose principal business involves the extraction, production, or refining of coal, gas, and oil. We know there is still a long way to go, and we will be looking very closely at all our investments to try and divest wherever we find an indirect link to extraction.”

Michael Sturgess, who chairs Truro’s board of finance, said: “We have deliberately selected fund managers with a strong ethical policy in terms of creation care as well as strong investment performance, and are actively seeking out good investments, such as renewables, at the same time as continuing to review our existing investments to ensure we meet our commitments.”

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