The episcopal lead for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales on the Environment, Bishop John Arnold of Salford, has called for more urgent action on the climate crisis. In a statement on his diocesan website on 23 July, after a record-breaking heatwave in the UK, he said:
“This is not going to just peak and then we’ll hear no more of it. It’s going to get gradually worse. We are warming the globe and we’re not reacting quickly enough to avoid the damage or to even begin to repair the damage that we’ve done. We’ve already been told that some of the damage is irreparable, so we’ve got to think and we’ve got to act. Unfortunately, the government is not fulfilling the promises made at COP26…. The politics of our nation must take full measure of climate change and the climate crisis.
“I know that we’re jogging along, showing an interest in climate change – but jogging is not enough. We’ve got to start sprinting at this stage to make sure that we are caring for our common home and our brothers and sisters.”
He described the recent heatwave as a “wake-up call,” saying, “this week, we’ve witnessed temperatures never before reached here in the UK and, here in our own diocese, temperatures also saw record highs as some parishes nudged 40 degrees and firefighters battled flames in nearby communities.”
Bishop John thanked parishes and schools already working to live more sustainably and campaign for environmental justice. Bishop Arnold invited involvement in the second diocesan Walk for Creation on Sunday 2nd October.
I have been privileged to attend the ‘Southern Environment Diocesan Network’ meetings, which are open to all with participants including members of CAFOD, Diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ Animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. We have met together for mutual support and encouragement for our efforts to tackle climate change in our work and home environments.
We were fortunate to receive input on all aspects of the climate, in order for us to inform those around us. Recently we learnt about ‘Biodiversity’ and how Climate Change is causing widespread devastation to all species and habitats on this planet. Clearly, there needs to be a dramatic reduction in our carbon emissions as individuals and organisations in order to protect the future and diversity of all life on earth. The mission of the network is inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching set out by Pope Francis in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which draws upon scripture to highlights our duty as Catholics to care for the earth and each other.
For me the experience highlighted the reality and urgency of the crisis which is often easy for us to forget amongst the business of our lives and the fact that real change is only possible if we take responsibility as individuals. It is only by the accumulation of our efforts that there can be hope for the future of life on this earth. With prayer and support of one another, we can have the strength to ‘take up our cross’ (Matthew 16: 24,26) whatever form this may take so we can protect God’s creation for future generations.
The next leader of the Conservative Party and the next Prime Minister must aspire to make the UK a global leader on climate change, nature restoration and environmental health. The environment needs to be centre stage in their campaign. Below are 10 commitments that a candidate, who’s genuinely commited to the environment, should be comfortable in making. If delivered, they would make a substantial difference to people’s lives and the environment and demonstrate global leadership.
Invest in the biggest ever UK-wide home insulation programme through a council-led street by street programme and provide additional financial support to low-income households.
Reject calls for the scrapping of the moratorium on fracking and the development of any new oil, gas, or coal extraction and instead say ‘yes’ to the rapid growth of onshore and offshore renewable energy.
Accept the Office for Environmental Responsibility’s recommendations for stronger targets for nature restoration and air quality, reverse plans to weaken habitats and environmental assessment laws, and swiftly implement the Environmental Land Management Scheme to reward nature-friendly farming.
Support calls for the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment to be recognised by the UN General Assembly and put this into UK law, as an essential part of protecting people’s health and eradicating environmental inequalities.
Fix the Net Zero Strategy so it delivers on legally binding carbon reduction targets and the commitments made at COP26, ensuring all departments in Whitehall deliver their part, including the Treasury.
Decentralise power and resources to devolved nations and councils so that they can properly eradicate environmental inequalities, deliver on the Climate Change Act, restore nature and ensure planning rules are in line with the climate and ecological emergency.
Introduce a new UK Business, Human Rights and Environment Act to make companies accountable for environmental damage and human rights abuses in their overseas supply chains and to eliminate the UK’s role in global deforestation.
Follow through on the UK’s world-leading commitment to ending the financing of fossil fuel projects abroad by speeding up the decarbonisation of the UK Export Finance agency’s portfolio. This must include withdrawing funding from the Mozambique gas project and switching financial support to renewable energy.
Ensure all new trade deals have strong, enforceable climate change and nature protection safeguards and that food standards and nature-friendly farming are not undermined by imports produced to lower environmental standards.
Make the UK a beacon of democracy by reversing draconian restrictions on protest, guarantee the independence of the Electoral Commission, stop the attacks on the Human Rights Act, and ensure citizens can challenge unjust decisions through the courts.
London Climate Action week 2022, the largest independent climate change event in Europe, will take place from 25th June to 3rd July and focuses on delivering the promises from COP-26 in this post pandemic era. It will involve a mixture of in-person and virtual events which anyone is free to host and hopes to embrace the diversity of London’s experience and heritage. Events will be a mixture of panel discussions, digital campaigns, announcements from business leaders and much more.
This annual event aims to harness the power of London for global Climate action to help us move towards a net-zero future. It will feature many world leading climate professionals and communities across London and beyond with the hope of finding practical solutions to the climate crisis.
As we recover from COVID-19, we need to embrace a new normal that puts tackling the climate emergency at the heart of everything we do.
We invite you to the next ‘Southern Dioceses Environment Network’ meeting, on Monday 13th June 12.45-2.00pm where we will explore the theme of ‘sustainable summers’. In preparation it would be helpful if you could have a think about a place, attraction, or venue in your Diocese to encourage families to explore the many things a sustainable holiday in England can offer. We would like to know something great about each Diocese! At the meeting, in Diocesan groups, you will be tasked to give each suggestion a trip advisor type review.
Things to consider could be:
Public Transport Cost Facilities Accessibility What is on offer Opening times Extra information Web site
Although this is a serious topic, we intend this to be an enjoyable session as we look towards the much-needed holiday season.
Laudato Si’ Week is being celebrated during 22nd – 29th May. It reminds us of our duty towards and celebration of creation. To learn more and to get involved, check out the links. To let us know what is happening in your parish please email Colette Joyce at email@example.com
The Laudato Si’ Encyclical, which was published in 2015, is a letter to the world from Pope Francis. In it he calls for dialogue and action concerning the care of what he calls “our common home”, and he urges all of us to take our duty to the natural environment, to animals and to poor people seriously. Click here to read or download a copy
The Laudato Si’ Movement(LSM) was formed as a result of the Encyclical. Under the umbrella of the Encyclical, it aims to activate the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to tackle the climate and environmental crises. To educate about and enable participation in this undertaking, LSM initiated an online Course. Click here to visit their website
The Laudato Si’ Animators Course was first opened in July 2020 to a world-wide audience of potential activists. The Course teaches how the Laudato Si’ (LS) Encyclical fits into Catholic Social Teaching, describes the causes and consequences of climate change and encourages a personal ecological conversion. Participants are encouraged to be environmentally active in their parishes and in the wider community. Click here for more details of the course
Laudato Si’ Animators are people who have completed the Course and then got together for mutual support, discussions, ideas and actions. We have a Network of around 90 Animators and green activists, covering the 22 Dioceses of England and Wales. Their aim? Simply to spread the message of the Encyclical throughout the Catholic Church, in an effort to educate about the environmental crisis and to inspire action which will help to combat the dire situation. https://www.facebook.com/LSIUK
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform has been established by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in response to the Encyclical. It is designed to run for 7 years, encompasses 7 Sectors and has 7 general goals. We will all fit into one or another of the Sectors. The 7 Goals are designed to guide our actions. Under each general goal heading, actions are suggested for us to consider which will reduce our environmental footprint. Visit the Laudato Si’ Action Platform
Tuesday 24th May, 10am-12noon: Circular Tree Walk from Westminster Cathedral – Join Colette Joyce, the Westminster Justice and Peace Co-ordinator, for this walk exploring trees in the vicinity of Westminster Cathedral to mark the 7th Anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’. All welcome. Free. Book with Eventbrite
Tuesday 24th May, 2.00-4.00pm: Laudato Si’ Study Session at Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street (behind Westminster Cathedral), London, SW1P 1QN – Join Colette Joyce, Westminster Justice and Peace Co-ordinator, for a study session on ‘Laudato- Si’ on the seventh anniversary of its publication. All welcome. Free. Book with Eventbrite
Southern Dioceses Environment Network – supportive monthly Monday lunchtime online meetings on the second Monday of the month for Catholics and our friends who are committed to the care of creation. More details and how to join
By Amy Smith, Westminster Justice and Peace Communications Volunteer
Today, 22nd April, is Earth Day – an annual event that shines a light on the serious environmental issues that our world is facing and what actions we can take as individuals and organisation to keep temperature rises below 1.5 C and promote a greener future.
It involves a wide range of events involving 1 billion people in more than 193 countries.
The official theme for 2022 is ‘Invest in Our Planet’.
Every Earth Day can drive a year of energy, enthusiasm and commitment to create a new plan of action for our planet.
Earth Day works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our planet across a range of issues. For more information on the campaigns and to find out what is happening in your area this Earth Day: https://earthday.org/earth-day-2022
Join the Southern Dioceses Environment Network for monthly prayer, sharing and discussion on all matters concerning the Catholic response to care of creation. Next meeting: Monday 9th May, 12.45-2.00pm. Click here for full details
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and more than 50 Anglican and Catholic Bishops have signed letter to the UK government calling for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to tackle the cost of living crisis and energy efficiency measures to reduce heating bills.
Ahead of the Government’s Spring Statement and energy security strategy, more than 200 UK church leaders have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on them to use these opportunities to tackle the climate emergency and address the cost of living crisis.
The letter, signed by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, says: “We call on you to use the Spring Statement to provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK. These measures would reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security.”
Other signatories to the letter include the lead environment bishops for the Church of England, Rt Rev Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich, the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Rt Revd John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, and the Catholic Church in Scotland, Most Revd William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow.
Church leaders from across the country have signed the letter including leaders of the Methodist Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union, Quakers and Jesuits in Britain, among others.
They urge the Government to implement a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to address the cost of living.
They write: “The Spring Statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments. The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C. New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years.
“We urge you to increase support for vulnerable households across the UK facing a cost of living crisis as a result of increasing food and energy prices, through measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.”
They add that many of their churches have set a 2030 target for reducing their emissions to net zero:
“Many of our Churches have set 2030 net zero targets and are taking action to decarbonise our buildings, including through the installation of solar panels, heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures. More than 2,000 churches across the UK participated in Climate Sunday ahead of COP26 and called on the UK Government to unleash a clean energy revolution and limit global heating to 1.5°C.”
A number of charities support the statement:
Patrick Watt, Interim CEO of Christian Aid, said: “The war in Ukraine has been a stark reminder that a world which relies on oil and gas is a world that is economically and politically combustible, as well as being environmentally disastrous. This is the moment we need to fundamentally rethink our energy system, and break the power of petro-autocrats for good by switching to clean, affordable, home grown renewables as fast as we can.
“If the UK is to be taken seriously as a global leader on climate change it needs to take this opportunity to accelerate the roll out of renewables as well as widespread energy efficiency measures which have been overdue for many years.
“A rush for fracking or more North Sea oil would undermine efforts to tackle climate change and endanger some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world who are dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis and look to the UK to lead the way in decarbonisation, not pursuing more polluting fossil fuels.”
Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, said: “This statement next week comes at a crucial time for the world’s energy industry. It’s never been more clear, nor more urgent, that we need a just transition to a low carbon economy. For the world’s poor, access to energy is a matter of survival.
“For humanity to be sustainable, all of our energy must come from renewable sources if we are to have any chance of protecting our common home for all of our sakes. The time to finally move away from fossil fuels is now, we hope the government with all its power and resources will lead by example to make this ground-breaking transition a reality.”
Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints, Ascot , one of the signatories of the letter, said: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor must act now to insulate millions of British homes, scale up renewable energy, give more support to struggling households and immediately stop all new oil and gas developments, as scientists say we must to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.
“It would be completely irresponsible for the UK Government to enable new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea only four months after the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. The time is now for bold measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, who are reaping billions of pounds in profits while families around the UK, including many of our parishioners, are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.”
Andy Atkins, Co-Chair of Churches’ Environmental Issues Network, and CEO of A Rocha UK, said: “Thousands of churches are sending aid to Ukraine, continuing to deepen their own action on climate change and supporting the poor and vulnerable locally, through foodbanks and other means. Next week’s statement is a crucial opportunity for the government, with its far greater resources, to wholeheartedly embrace a rapid and fair transition to a low carbon economy.”
Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, said: “The Ukraine conflict has exposed the fragility of our energy system if it relies on fossil fuels. Let’s not go back to polluting oil and gas when renewable solutions are cheaper, cleaner and more secure. Our response to the energy security crisis can’t add fuel to the climate crisis.”
Amy Smith is a Communications Volunteer for Westminster Justice and Peace
As Christians we know that the earth is not ours to do with as we wish, regardless of the consequences, but is gifted to us by God for us to live and share with the rest of His creation which He values equally. If God is love then all of His creation is worthy of love and protection. God trusts us and believes in our capacity to be responsible stewards of the earth; hopefully we can see this role as an honour and privilege. In Mark (12:31) we are instructed to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’; our actions towards our planet have a direct impact on our brothers and sisters, especially those in poorer countries who will likely suffer the most.
The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how we are all interconnected despite our circumstances and how our actions can make a real difference to the lives of those in need. Any brother or sister of God’s should be our responsibility to help. Often, we might feel we would like to help but it isn’t really up to us or we can’t make much impact by ourselves, such as the Levite who felt pity and would like to help if only it cost him no trouble. The poor man hasn’t done anything to deserve his predicament just as poorer communities have done little to contribute to the global warming crisis but are suffering the worst consequences. They have fewer resources to mitigate the effects of climate change and are more vulnerable to extreme weather. This only exacerbates poverty and deepens inequality. It seems only right that rich countries whose actions are the root cause of climate change must bear the responsibility for resolving the problem.
In Laudato Si’, the encyclical published in 2015, the Pope reiterates the Bible’s message that there should be a relationship of mutual responsibility between humans and nature, in order to protect it for future generations. This act of care for our ‘Common Home’ is the responsibility of ‘every living person on this planet.’ He instructs us to take steps in our daily life to change the attitude of wastefulness and greed brought on by the consumerist culture we live in which is detrimental to our relationship with each other, the earth, and God. Already the Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.8°C over the last 30 years mainly due to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. A target of keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees has been given as a limit which is essential to preventing the most detrimental effects to our planet such as sea level rises, but even this is looking unlikely unless more actions can be agreed upon by world leaders.
What can we do as individuals, as Christians to play our part in this crisis? Perhaps we can think of ways we can change our lifestyle, something that is not always easy when we are used to living a certain way. Maybe there are small steps we can take before progressing further such as having a meat free day, reducing the use of our phone, trying to travel green such as cycling/walking more and using a renewable energy provider in our homes. Often we can feel discouraged when our efforts seem insignificant, but if everyone plays their part and supports each other there is potential for real change. Hopefully we can call on God in prayer during this season of Lent to help us contemplate our relationship with Him, each other and our world.
I have been privileged to attend the Southern Dioceses Environment Network meetings which happen once a month to share the initiatives that are taking part in each parish to tackle climate change.
Participants include CAFOD and diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. All are welcome. The next meeting will be held on Monday 14th March, 12.45-2.00pm.
Columban Sister Kate Midgley and Christian Climate Action activist Melanie Nazareth are among these involved with a 24-hour prayer and fasting Vigil outside the Westminster Parliament, which started on Sunday. Running from 6-20 March, the action is being organised by a new group called ‘Beyond Fossil Fuels Together’.
The group aims to pressure the UK government to end dependence on coal, oil and gas. It says: “Our Earth is in peril and millions are already suffering as a result of the climate crisis. As our world heats up, the UK government is pouring £10 billion a year into the fossil fuel industry.
We need to move beyond our addiction to fossil fuels now with an immediate end to new oil exploration and licences, and to fossil fuel subsidies. Will you come together with us and speak up on behalf of our planet?”
Beyond Fossil Fuels Together is hoping to bring different groups and individuals together to vigil and fast alongside each other. It says: “Despite our philosophical, religious, political or ideological differences, we all live together on this ailing planet, and we all have children or care about young people who will suffer through the worst of the climate emergency. We may also have links with people in the Global South where communities are already suffering terribly as a result of the West’s excesses.”