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Christians protest against climate change as UK temperature hits 30 degrees

13 September 2023


After a humid night, the sun burns through the early morning mist across the fields overlooking the hillside town of Malmesbury, on Sunday

After a humid night, the sun burns through the early morning mist across the fields overlooking the hillside town of Malmesbury, on Sunday

AS THE UK sweltered under a ferocious autumn sun this week, Christians took part in 13 climate pilgrimages around the UK, from Glasgow to Brighton, to highlight public concern regarding the climate crisis, and to call on the Government to end new oil and gas expansion.

The Met Office announced that the heatwave in England and Wales this week was the first time since records began that temperatures have been higher than 30ºC for six days in a row in September.

The Revd Vanessa Elston, a pioneer priest in Southwark diocese, took part in a pilgrimage in Battersea. She said: “The public are really concerned about the climate issue. We don’t want to be paying sky-high energy bills to fossil-fuel companies in a cost-of-living crisis. Renewables are cheaper; so it’s high time our leaders made them a viable option on a large scale.”

As temperatures rose, leaders of the G20 group of nations met in Delhi, where they called for peace in Ukraine, agreed that the world needed $4 trillion to fund the energy transition away from fossil fuels, and called for accelerating efforts towards a “phasedown of unabated coal power”; they said that poorer nations needed financial support to ensure a “just transition”.

Before the summit, church leaders representing more than 600 million Christians, had called on the G20 leaders to implement progressive carbon taxes and to end subsidies for fossil fuels, which could raise $3.2 trillion for the needed energy transition.

In a letter, the leaders of the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Methodist Council, the Lutheran World Federation, and the Council for World Mission, wrote: “Nature and the environment have been reduced to an “asset class” for financial gain, and the Earth is treated as a tap and a sink — a place from which unlimited resources are drawn and unlimited pollution dumped. The consequences include runaway climate change and unprecedented biodiversity loss that now pose existential threats to present and future life on the planet.”

World Vision has also reiterated its commitment to caring for the environment after Christians held a prayer vigil outside its London offices, urging the charity to stop banking with Barclays, the largest funder of fossil fuels in Europe.

Members of Christian Climate Action (CCA) prayed and sang outside the office on Thursday of last week. The co-founder, Holly-Anna Petersen, from Sheffield, who took part in the event, said: “If we donate to a charity that banks with Barclays, our money can be channelled into fossil-fuel expansion. When a charity chooses Barclays, this also gives Barclay’s social licence and political influence, as it is presenting itself as a bank associated with positive causes, instead of one which is bankrolling climate collapse.”

After the vigil, Sandy Winterbottom, a World Vision supporter, wrote on social media: “As a @WorldVision sponsor, I’m appalled to hear they’re still banking with @Barclays. Come on World Vision. Do better!”

In a statement, World Vision said: “We are committed to caring for the environment in all areas of our work, including through our partners. We take this very seriously — not least because the world’s poorest communities are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. We regularly review our partnerships in the context of the environment, including the providers of our banking services, where we need to balance multiple factors in our choice of providers including their environmental credentials.”

CCA is also calling on Tearfund to end its relationship with Barclays, but, so far, the Tearfund board has not agreed to requests to meet with them. A spokesperson for Tearfund said that they currently use Barclays to get money to difficult-to-reach countries: “We want to work with highly ethical suppliers, but often the options are very limited in the challenging contexts where we work.

“Earlier this year, we opened an account with Nationwide, widely recommended as one of the most ethical banks, for the purpose of placing investments. We will continue to review whether there are other banks who can meet our operational needs and that are committed to ambitious climate action and making change happen as quickly as possible.”

The fellow development charity Christian Aid dropped Barclays earlier this year, after a similar request was made from Christian Climate Action (News, 18 August).

A spokesperson for Barclays said at the time that the bank had “set 2030 targets to reduce the emissions that we finance in five high emitting sectors in our financing portfolio, including energy”, and had achieved a 32 per cent reduction in its financed emissions since 2020.


Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist for Christian Aid.

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