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Christians join protests at UK’s oil terminals

04 April 2022

IPCC report sets out stark challenges

Christian Climate Action

Just Stop Oil activists protest at Esso Birmingham fuel terminal, on Friday morning

Just Stop Oil activists protest at Esso Birmingham fuel terminal, on Friday morning

ANGLICAN clergy and other Christians are among protesters who have blocked oil facilities in the UK in response to the urgent recommendations of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC’s report, published on Monday, warns that the world is not on track to keep the global temperature rise to below the agreed goal of 1.5ºC, and says that emissions need to peak by 2025. It suggests that, with urgent action to decarbonise, however, emissions could be halved this century. This would provide a chance to keep global warming in check.

The secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, said: “The jury has reached a verdict — and it is damning. This report of the IPCC is a litany of broken climate promises. It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unliveable world.”

He was particularly critical of government and corporate “greenwashing”, in which claims of progress do not match the reality. “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic,” he said

The head of global policy and advocacy at Christian Aid, Fionna Smyth, said that the report showed that richer and more polluting nations needed to act rapidly. “Most of the people living on the front lines of the climate emergency have done the least to cause this problem. For example, despite accounting for 17 per cent of the world’s population, Africans contribute just four per cent of global emissions.”

The director of CAFOD, Christine Allen, urged governments to invest in renewables. “The crisis in Ukraine has shown the fragility of global oil and gas supplies; investment in renewables is the only way to energy security and dealing with the climate crisis.”

Christians who maintain that the Government is not doing enough are among the participants in a wave of direct action against the use of fossil fuels.

Over the weekend, members of the groups climbed on and blocked tankers at critical oil terminals near Birmingham and London. A few entered the loading bay at Buncefield oil terminal in Hertfordshire and stood on oil tankers holding banners.

Oil tankers in Kingsbury, near Coventry, and at Esso terminals in Birmingham were prevented from leaving by people sitting in the road. At Thames Oilport in Essex, meanwhile, 17 people have climbed or locked onto a tanker to prevent it from leaving.

There have been more than 200 arrests since protests began on Friday.

The Revd Mark Coleman was Rector and Dean of Rochdale, in the diocese of Manchester, until his retirement in 2020. He said: “Oil is killing us, it’s time to stop our dependence on it. Ordinary people in our parishes are suffering the most from this cost-of-living crisis, while tyrants are making a killing — literally.

“Now is the time for the Government to signal its change of direction by refusing to develop new oil fields. It’s a real no-brainer, so what are we waiting for?”

As climate-heating carbon emissions continue to rise, despite warnings from scientists that the world is in danger of breaching the globally agreed goal of limiting average temperature rise to 1.5C, the protestors are calling for a shift away from fossil fuels.

The Revd Helen Burnett, Team Vicar of St Peter and St Paul, Chaldon, with St Luke’s, Whyteleafe, in the diocese of Southwark, said: “Compared to the horrific bloodshed in Ukraine, the fight for 1.5C may seem abstract, but it is, in reality, all too real. It is the fight for all those on the frontline of the climate crisis, in particular our children and our young people and the majority of the world’s population in the global south.

“It is the fight for a peaceful and organised international community. It is the fight for the story of humanity and the fight for all those whom we love.”

Other action that the groups have taken include digging a network of tunnels at oil terminals in Thurrock, Essex. One member of the group superglued himself to the desk while giving a radio interview to LBC.

The protestors refer to the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, who said in May 2021: “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now, from this year.”

Neil Rothnie, 69, a retired offshore oil and gas worker from Glasgow, is also taking part in the protests. He said: “The oil and gas industry has one priority, and it is not the climate crisis. It’s not the future of North Sea oil and gas workers. And it’s certainly not whether the poor can stay warm. Their plan is to produce every barrel of oil and gas under the North Sea, and, if they have to trash the climate and the economy and destroy our lives, so be it.

“It’s called ‘business as usual’. The Government needs to get a grip, get out of bed with the oil industry and Just Stop Oil.”

The climate campaign group Extinction Rebellion is launching its latest round of protests on Saturday (9 April) with a gathering in Hyde Park for people who have never protested before. To raise awareness, several churches have displayed banners.

These include All Saints with Holy Trinity, Loughborough, where a banner displayed outside the church reads “No Faith in Fossil Fuels.” The Revd Emily Sharman, Pioneer Minister of All Saints and a member of Christian Climate Action Loughborough, said: “As Christians, we are often called to do things outside of our comfort zone in the name of God. One of the first things outlined in the Bible is the creation story and this banner is a clear message that we are here to protect what God has made.”

Elsewhere, a series of bike rides begin today, which are intended to call on the Church of England’s investment bodies to divest from fossil fuels. The riders include Jim Green and Chris Hull, who are riding from Norwich to Chelmsford Cathedral. Mr Green said that they were celebrating recent the decision of the Norwich diocesan synod to disinvest from fossil fuels (News, 12 November 2021), which they urged other dioceses to follow.

“I was inspired to organise this ride after the CO26 climate summit, and the need for churches to show a lead commitment in divesting,” he said. “Last year, the Southern African Bishops conference signed a detailed declaration calling for urgent action on oil and gas exploration, which is having a devastating direct effect across Africa, as well as fuelling climate change. The International Energy Agency has called for all investment in oil and gas exploration to cease this year.”

In the House of Lords last Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged the Government to work with faith groups to achieve net zero. Speaking in a debate on behaviour change for net zero, he said: “Churches across the Anglican Communion are deeply affected by climate change. For example, Madagascar recently had four cyclones in two months. We are working right across the Communion on this question. This week, we have had a gathering of Archbishops from across the Communion representing more than 100 countries.”

Elsewhere, the Church of England Pensions Board is among investors asking the car manufacturer Volkswagen to make its influence on climate regulation more transparent and disclose its lobbying efforts.

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