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Christians should call out the Government’s pursuit of fossil fuels

27 April 2023

Its policies are holding back the UK’s renewable energy industry, says Olivia Graham

Louise Norton/CAFOD

Church leaders take part in The Big One climate protest outside Parliament last weekend

Church leaders take part in The Big One climate protest outside Parliament last weekend

THE issue of climate change is no longer one about science — that has never been clearer. It’s not even a technological problem: we have the ability to harness clean, renewable energy from the wind, air, and rocks beneath our feet. It’s also not a matter of economics: renewables are the cheapest form of new electricity in the UK.

The problem is political will, and the entrenched power and wealth of the fossil-fuel companies which do all they can to hold back progress. That is why I, and a number of other church leaders, were among the thousands of people outside Parliament last weekend, taking part in The Big One: a climate protest which I hope sends a message to the Government that they must stop their push to explore for new fossil-fuel reserves (News, 24 April).

The moral case for action on climate change is stark. The people on the brink of famine in East Africa after terrible droughts have done almost nothing to cause the climate crisis.

Kenya has almost no historic emissions, its current per capita carbon emissions are just 0.37 tons, and its electricity mix is now 92 per cent renewable. In contrast, the UK has vastly higher historic emissions; its current per capita emissions are 5.15 tons; and, last year, it built only two onshore wind turbines. All this despite the UK’s living through a cost-of-living crisis, caused in part by eye-watering fossil-fuel prices and a war waged by a petro-dictator in Russia.

THE International Energy Agency has warned that no new oil and gas fields should be developed, if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating. And yet the UK Government is currently in the process of handing out licences to fossil-fuel companies to dig up and burn yet more oil and gas from the North Sea.

The UK Government claims to be a climate leader; it says that it is concerned about the plight of those suffering from the effects of drought, flooding, and storms. The reality, however, is that, while it proclaims its own net zero ambitions, it is pushing fossil-fuel expansion and blocking onshore wind.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Countries such as Kenya and others are pioneering the pathway embracing the many benefits of clean energy. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is about to unleash $370 billion of investment in renewables and clean tech. Similar stimulus packages are being rolled out by the European Union and China in response.

THE fossil-fuel era is coming to an end; the direction of travel is clear as the technology gets ever better and cheaper.

But, for the most vulnerable people, time is running out. They are already beginning to experience the reality of climate breakdown. So we need to accelerate that shift from dirty to clean energy — not spend the next few years paying fossil-fuel giants to drain every last drop of gas and oil from the North Sea. That only accelerates climate suffering, and slows the emergence of the UK’s renewable energy industry.

In the Bible, God sent prophets to warn leaders who were going astray of their misdeeds and poor judgement. The folly of this Government’s fossil-fuel-obsessed climate and energy policies is clear, and Christians need to stand together and call it out.

I hope that the people in Parliament Square last weekend will be a wake-up call to our leaders — for our sake, and for the sake of the climate-vulnerable around the world.

The Rt Revd Olivia Graham is the Bishop of Reading.

Find out more about The Big One here

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