Report from the ‘No Faith in Fossil Fuels’ Climate Service and Rally in London on 21st April 2023

Westminster Justice and Peace represented at ‘The Big One’ climate rally on 21st April 2023

Source: Jo Siedlecka, Independent Catholic News

Christians from many denominations taking part in the Big One climate protests on Friday, began with a prayer service led by church leaders including Bishop John Sentamu at St John’s Church, Waterloo. So many had arrived for the No Faith In Fossil Fuels Service, there was standing room only in the church, and hundreds remained outside.

After the service, a line of seven Anglican bishops and other church leaders led a march via Shell HQ to Parliament, (where Bishop Sentamu tried to deliver a letter – but was reported to the police – read more here ) to join the protests.

They were accompanied by Christine Allen director of CAFOD, with dozens of CAFOD supporters, Anthony Cotterill head of the Salvation Army UK, with the Salvation Army Brass Band, plus representatives from Tearfund, Christian Aid, Young Christian Climate Network, Student Christian Movement, Operation Noah, Just Love, A Rocha UK, Engage Worship, Green Christian, All We Can, Christian Climate Action and others.

The Big One, taking place from 21 to 24 April, is already one of the biggest UK climate protests to have taken place, with thousands of people gathering around Parliament across four days to demand an end to the fossil fuel era. This peaceful protest has planned many family-friendly activities throughout the four days.

Christine Allen, director of CAFOD told ICN: “Pope Francis has called on every one of us to take collective responsibility to care for our common home. The Pope has said that means leaving behind the fossil fuels that are destroying our common home.

“We cannot continue to allow a situation where fossil fuel companies reap record-breaking profits while people in communities that have contributed least to the climate crisis pay the price.”

The former Archbishop of York and current Chair of Christian Aid, John Sentamu said: “Climate change is the most insidious and brutally 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 against injustice and once again we need to see Christians calling on the [UK} government to take decisive action.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, the lead Church of England bishop for the environment, said: “I commend this peaceful, prayer-fuelled service and pilgrimage. The message is loud and clear: ‘Wake up world!’ It is time to stop playing political games and take action now. We are already seeing the effects of the climate emergency around the world – and it is the world’s economically poorest people who are already suffering the most. So it is our moral duty and a Christian calling to do all we can to try to turn the tide. Our leaders must seize this moment and deliver real and impactful change for the future of God’s creation. We don’t have a spare Earth – this is our one precious home.”

In 2021, the International Energy Agency said that exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating. But since this stark warning, all major oil companies are continuing to explore for 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. The UK government is also subsidising the fossil fuel industry. Since 2015, the UK government has given £20 billion more in support to fossil fuel producers than to those of renewables.

Last year, a YouGov poll commissioned by CAFOD found that 59 per cent of Christians felt the government had done too little to tackle climate change over the last year. Only 16 per cent of Christians surveyed thought the government had done the right amount.

The Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft, Anglican Bishop of Oxford 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 Rt Rev Hugh Nelson, Anglican Bishop of Truro, said: “The climate emergency isn’t a problem for the future; it’s a disaster that already affects many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Jesus said that he came to be ‘good news to the poor’ and I hope that many Christians will be in London for The Big One to stand with Jesus and speak up for the poorest of the world.

The Rt Rev Richard Jackson, Anglican Bishop of Hereford, said: “Climate change is an international emergency, the consequences of which reach to every corner of the world. In Herefordshire excess rainfall has caused the Wye to reach its highest ever level in the last few years, bringing not just flooding but sewage outflows that have had a devastating effect on wildlife. We can do our little bits as individuals, but only concerted government action can bring the necessary changes to reach our net zero target. I commend Christian Climate Action for continuing to bring this issue to government for their response.”

Rev Jo Rand, a Methodist Minister from Cumbria, said: “I’m really glad to see the number of mainstream charities and organisations that are taking part in the Big One. We must end our dependence on fossil fuels, and there’s strength in numbers as we show our leaders this isn’t a fringe issue but something that’s at the heart of working for a just world. Come and be a part of it!”

Passionist priest Fr Martin Newell said: “This is such a critical time for life on our planet. The sad truth is that the window in which we are able to turn the climate crisis around is closing fast. This is a really difficult thing to comprehend. But I choose to believe in the Church. I believe that we will not let God’s creation be sullied by greed, by selfishness and all the horrible systematic sin we are seeing around us. I invite my fellow Christians to stand alongside me as we say no to fossil fuel exploration.”