THE former Archbishop of York Lord Sentamu, several serving bishops, and leaders of other denominations have urged Christians to join them outside Parliament later this month to demand an end to the use of fossil fuels.
More than 100,000 people are expected to descend on Westminster over the weekend beginning Friday 21 April to call on the Government to stop issuing licences to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea, and instead accelerate the transition to renewables.
Christians attending the protest, named the Big One, are also invited to a No Faith In Fossil Fuels Service, on 21 April, at St John’s, Waterloo, followed by a walk to Parliament via the headquarters of Shell.
Lord Sentamu, who chairs the board of Christian Aid, said: “Climate change is the greatest insidious and brutal indiscriminate force of our time. The people suffering the most have done the least to cause it. That is why continuing to search for new sources of fossil fuels, despite explicit warnings against this from the International Energy Agency, is such an offence against humanity.
“If we want to limit climate suffering, we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The Church has a proud history of standing up for injustice, and, once again, we need to see Christians calling on the Government to take decisive actions.”
In 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that exploitation of new oil and gas fields must cease to limit global warming. Since then, the main oil companies have continued to explore and develop new fossil-fuel reserves.
Despite the advice of the IEA, the UK Government has opened a new licensing round for companies to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea. Nearly 900 locations are being offered for exploration, with more than 100 licences set to be awarded.
Many bishops have backed the call for protest, including the Bishops of Reading, Hull, Truro, Penrith, Hereford, and Warwick. The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said: “Earth is the only planet, the only corner of this vast universe, where we are certain there is abundant life. Yet the once-rich tapestry of life on earth is now being degraded year by year because of the expansion and greed of a single species: ourselves.
“We have time, just, to respond to the climate crisis. This is the moment to send a clear message to the Government that they must go further and faster to tackle carbon pollution.”
The No Faith In Fossil Fuels service will be attended by Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed Church, and Salvation Army representatives, many of whom will also be attending the mass mobilisation outside Parliament which will run from 21 to 24 April.
Elizabeth Kitchenside, a Salvation Army first-year cadet, said: “I’m joining the Big One because I believe that there is a better way and a brighter future possible for the planet, but this can only happen with radical change in society and policy. Micah 6.8 calls us to ‘Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.’ There is nothing just or merciful about the climate crisis. And so, I walk. For my future, for the planet, for justice, and, most importantly, for my God.”
The international impact of fossil fuels will also be central during the Big One. Patricia Pagulayan, who works for Tearfund in the Philippines, will be speaking at the No Faith In Fossil Fuels service. Those attending the event in London, she said, will be appreciated by people living in climate-vulnerable parts of the world. “The Philippines is already experiencing more frequent and more violent typhoons. Farmers are enduring one failed harvest after another because of unpredictable weather patterns. How much more destruction do we need to endure before the world wakes up to this climate emergency and offers real support for vulnerable communities?
“Protesters at the Big One in London are standing next to farmers and fisherfolk in the Philippines who experience the brunt of a climate crisis they did little to cause.”
Last year, a YouGov poll commissioned by the charity Cafod found that 59 per cent of Christians felt that the Government had done too little to tackle climate change in the past year. Only 16 per cent of Christians surveyed thought that the Government had done the right amount.
The Bishop of Warwick, the Rt Revd John Stroyan, said: “The Big One is making a statement of the utmost urgency and importance to our Government: namely, that humanity faces an existential crisis which threatens all peoples, all creatures — and indeed the creation itself. It is important that people across the whole nation, of all faiths and none, unite in calling our Government urgently to take steps to decarbonise the economy.”
Two supporters of Just Stop Oil — Morgan Trowland, 40, and Marcus Decker, 33 — were found guilty of public nuisance on Wednesday, after occupying the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford, in London, on 17 October 2022. The supporters were demanding that the Government halt licensing and consents for the development of any new fossil-fuel projects in the UK. Both men will be sentenced on 13 April.
The No Faith In Fossil Fuels service begins at noon on 21 April in St John’s, Waterloo. For more information, visit: christianclimateaction.org/no-faith-in-fossil-fuels-service