MORE than 200 church leaders in the UK have urged the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to impose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies in his Spring Statement, which is due to be delivered on Wednesday. The money should be used to help people who are struggling to pay their food and heating bills as energy prices rise significantly, the letter says.
Signatories to the letter, co-ordinated by Christian Aid, Operation Noah, Arocha, Tearfund, and CAFOD, and addressed to Mr Sunak and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, more than 30 serving Anglican bishops, and the Primates of Scotland and Wales.
The letter says: “We call on you to use the Spring Statement to provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK. These measures would reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security.”
It continues: “The Spring Statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments. The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil-fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C. New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years.
“We urge you to increase support for vulnerable households across the UK facing a cost of living crisis as a result of increasing food and energy prices, through measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.”
It concludes: “Now is the time to end our dependence on fossil fuels and fund a fair and fast transition, which will secure our future economic prosperity and protect the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.”
Among the Anglican diocesans to have signed the letter are the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment; the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, who is a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Environment and Climate Change; and the Bishops of Southwark, Chelmsford, Worcester, and Sheffield.
The interim CEO of Christian Aid, Patrick Watt, said on Monday: “The war in Ukraine has been a stark reminder that a world which relies on oil and gas is a world that is economically and politically combustible, as well as being environmentally disastrous. This is the moment we need to fundamentally rethink our energy system, and break the power of petro-autocrats for good by switching to clean, affordable, home-grown renewables as fast as we can.
“If the UK is to be taken seriously as a global leader on climate change, it needs to take this opportunity to accelerate the roll out of renewables as well as widespread energy-efficiency measures, which have been overdue for many years.
“A rush for fracking or more North Sea oil would undermine efforts to tackle climate change and endanger some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, who are dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis and look to the UK to lead the way in decarbonisation, not pursuing more polluting fossil fuels.”
The full text of the letter, and the list of signatories, can be read here