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Churches commitments on climate change presented to No.10

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On Monday 18 October at 10:00am, leaders representing the five main faith groups from across the UK, including Bishop Olivia the Anglican Bishop of Reading, met at 10 Downing Street to demand bold and ambitious action on the climate crisis from Government, which is hosting the UN COP26 summit in two weeks. Bishop Olivia, representing the Climate Sunday coalition, was among the multi-faith leaders in attendance, and presented Government with a list of thousands of churches calling for government to act now.

This interfaith presentation is a key milestone of practical action by faith groups that comes at a critical time for the climate, ahead of the UN COP26 climate negotiations in November. Handing in the Climate Sunday list, which comprises of thousands of churches from 30 denominations and charities – representing the biggest ecumenical Christian movement for climate justice in the UK, is increasing pressure through their collective call on the UK government to be bold and ambitious at COP26.

Over the past year, the Climate Sunday initiative has been asking churches to act, pray and speak up on climate change. At their Climate Sunday service, congregations have been encouraged to make a commitment to ongoing action to address climate change in their own place of worship and community, and to use their voice to tell politicians that we want post-Covid recovery plans, and the decisions coming from COP26 to lead to cleaner, greener, fairer future in the UK and beyond. They were also encouraged to get involved with a church ‘greening scheme’, such as A Rocha UK’s Eco Church, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s Live Simply or Eco Congregation in Scotland and Ireland.

The Climate Sunday movement has involved those from many diverse church traditions. Churches are calling on the Government, in their role as chair of COP26, to be much more ambitious in seeking faster and deeper global emissions cuts and the delivery of long-promised finance to help poorer countries adapt to the climate disruption.

Many of those involved in Climate Sunday are ‘speaking up’ for the first time, and since the start of the ‘Climate Sunday’ coalition, 2,128 church congregations have joined the list, including clergy, Christian charities and young people. Thousands more, including other faith groups, have joined in signing the ‘Time is Now’ declaration, which calls on the UK government to go further faster on climate action before hosting the COP26.

The Bishop of Reading, The Rt Revd Bishop Olivia Graham, said: “I am proud and delighted to be standing shoulder to shoulder with other faith leaders today as we represent the millions who belong to faith communities to urge our government to put aside short-term political considerations and act on planetary warming, which is the key issue of this decade. There must be nothing half-hearted about our government’s leadership of the COP26. Lives and livelihoods are already being lost across the globe due to the climate crisis. The survival of future generations is at stake. We all have a global moral responsibility, and today we urge our government to act with confidence and conviction. They have our prayers and our support.”

Andy Atkins, Chair of the Climate Sunday coalition, and CEO of Christian nature conservation charity A Rocha UK said: ‘It’s hugely encouraging to see so many churches making their own practical commitments on climate change – surely one of the biggest moral issues of our generation. Clearly every section of society needs to contribute to heading off climate catastrophe including urging governments to use their greater powers and resources to maximum effect. There are still 2 weeks before COP26 and we hope and we know many more churches will be holding a service, committing to action and speaking up in that time.


For images and interviews with spokespeople please contact: Tamsin Morris, Press Officer, Climate Sunday Coalition on 020 857 45935 ext: 2006 or 07931 961557 or email: tamsin.morris@arocha.org

Notes to Editors:

Spokespeople available for comment in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland include:

Bishop Olivia, Bishop of Reading, the Diocese of Oxford’s first female bishop

  • Andy Atkins, Chair of Climate Sunday and CEO of A Rocha UK
  • Stephen Curran, Manager of Eco Congregation Scotland, Steering Committee for Climate Sunday
  • Reverend Judith Morris, General Secretary of Baptist Union of Wales
  • Reverend Andrew Orr, Church of Ireland representative and chair of Eco-Congregation Ireland
  • Shermara Fletcher, Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic & Multi-cultural Relations, Churches Together in England
  1. Climate Sunday initiative, organised by the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)’s Environmental Issues Network (EIN), is the UK’s largest joint project planned by UK Churches on Climate Change. The vision for Climate Sunday is to leave a lasting legacy of thousands of churches better equipped to address this critical issue as part of their discipleship and mission and to make a significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at COP26.Climate Sunday has formal backing from CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, The Salvation Army, A Rocha UK, Operation Noah, Climate Stewards, Eco-Congregation Scotland, Eco-Congregation Ireland, Green Christian, the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union of Wales, the United Reformed Church, The Church of Scotland, Churches together in Wales, the Union of Welsh Independents, The Church in Wales, World Vision, The John Ray Initiative, USPG, The United Reformed Church, The Salvation Army, Joint Public Issues Team, CTBI, Christian Concern for One World, Church of Ireland, Young Christian Climate Network, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Churches can still register a Climate Sunday service and find resources at www.climatesunday.org
  2. Church Greening Schemes The ‘Greening schemes’ are award based programmes which equip churches to take action on the environment, in their church and local community. They are encouraged to do this through worship and teaching, reducing carbon emissions, land and individual lifestyles, and to speak up on the climate. There are three principal independent schemes in the UK to help grass roots churches tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and other pressing environmental issues. They work closely together. 9,248 UK churches are now registered with one or other scheme.Eco Church, run by A Rocha UK, for churches in England and Wales – https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
    Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical environmental charity supporting local churches throughout Scotland to care and act for God’s creation, reducing their impact on climate change and living sustainably – https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org
    Eco-Congregation Ireland is a project of the Church in Society Forum, a standing committee of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, encouraging churches of all denominations across Ireland to take an eco approach – https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/
    Live Simply is the environmental award scheme of the Catholic Church in England and Wales – https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award
  3. Time is Now Declaration – organised by the Climate Coalition, of which most members of the Climate Sunday Initiative are also members. It can be signed by individuals, business and community organisations. So far, 146,570 individuals, 640 businesses/organisations, and 264 community/faith groups have signed up (147,474 in total). These figures are shown here https://thetimeisnow.uk
  4. Bishop of Reading, Bishop Olivia Bishop Olivia became the Diocese of Oxford’s first female bishop when she was consecrated in November 2019. She began her career in teaching and international development, including a period working for Oxfam in Somalia. Ordained in 1997, she has since served in the Diocese of Oxford, in Garsington, Princes Risborough, and Burnham before she became the Archdeacon of Berkshire in 2013. Bishop Olivia is passionate about social justice and the interface the Church has with the wider world. In June 2019 she accompanied other faith leaders calling for Government action on climate change and took part in a Mass Lobby of Parliament. Big priorities for Bishop Olivia are the climate crisis and the challenges facing young people. Bishop Olivia is married to Keith, and they have three grown-up children.

Bishop Steven in the House of Lords

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The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft Prayer Duty in the House of Lords in September 2021

All this has to change – A sermon from Bishop Olivia

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Reading Minster YCCN Climate Service

Bishop Olivia gave the following sermon at a climate justice service at Reading Minster on 31 July 2021, to mark the presence of the Young Christian Climate Network during their Relay to COP26. You can read all about that here.


Welcome

Let me add my welcome to Sonya’s. Thank you for coming to join us this morning, from near and far, and thank you to those who are going to continue on the relay to Twyford later on today, carrying the Relay baton, the flag which started in Cornwall and will end in Glasgow. When we arrived at Wesley Methodist Church from Aldermaston Wharf on Wednesday, David Shaw reflected on the importance of passing on the baton, and as it moves towards Glasgow, we think not only about this journey of protest and advocacy, but about the baton of responsibility which has been given to us by God for the care of God’s creation, and passed down the generations.

My generation has mucked this up badly, and in sorrow we stand alongside the younger ones to witness together to the damage done, and to work for climate justice and a more sustainable way of living. We stand alongside those who are already bearing the cost of climate change, whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed, while they contributed very little to the root causes.

And we are motivated by love – for God, for our brothers and sisters across the world, and for creation.

A stark picture

Such an inspiring poem from the great Amanda Gorman. We know, with greater clarity every day, that we are heading for more than 1.5 degrees of planetary warming. We know, without a shadow of doubt, that this is part and parcel of a more vast biodiversity crisis. The numbers tell their own story:

In the last half century, about 50% the world’s animals have been lost. Of all the mammals left on Earth, only 4% are wild mammals, 36% are humans, and a whopping 60% now are livestock. 70% of all birds on the planet are now poultry.1 Insects have declined by 75%. Three quarters of the crop types we grow rely on insect pollination.2

These numbers present a stark picture of the effect we are having on the web of life which sustains us and provides for our needs. Ecosystem collapse and climate change are a real and present threat to our continuation as a species.

Climate finance

We know the crucial importance of the COP26. It simply cannot afford to fail. And yet one of the greatest stumbling blocks to getting global agreement is the turning of ambition into firm commitment.

The issue of climate finance is crucial. Finance for the developing countries, not only so that they can meet the costs of mitigation and adaptation, which is underfunded, but also to pay for the loss and damage which they are experiencing as a result of climate change. These countries have not developed their economies using vast quantities of fossil fuels. And they are now trying to develop their economies and raise the standards of living for their populations, but they simply don’t have the economic resources to pay for green development, or for the loss and damage caused by our decades of inaction.

Without firm commitments to this finance, not only will the losses mount up, the damage get worse, and the costs rise, but there will be no political goodwill from these countries when it comes to international agreements on carbon emissions.

It is essential that this funding comes from those who have accumulated wealth through polluting activities, not from those already struggling.

Justice

The four asks of YCCN, which they are taking to Glasgow, are:

For reinstatement of the foreign aid budget to 0.7% of national income.

To get firm agreement from rich countries to double the commitment of $100bn a year for climate finance.

Work with other governments and international organisations to develop a loss and damage mechanism

Push for the debts of the world’s poorest countries to be cancelled.

These are all issues of justice.

Justice lies at the heart of the discussions about the climate crisis.

The Bible paints a picture of a God who is very very keen on justice.

So many times, we read of God’s concern for the poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable, the stranger and the refugee. So many times we hear of the cause of the wronged being righted; the hungry being fed; those who wield power needing to have a special care for the weak.

The costs of climate change are not evenly spread. According to the IPCC, climate change will not only affect the different regions of the world differently, but also the different generations and genders. The poorest populations will be most affected. 70% of this population, according to the UN, are women, and a large percentage are young women.

We face lots of transnational challenges in addition to climate change: public health, inequality, social and political polarisation. Only if we build bridges of human solidarity will we survive as a species. That’s what we have learnt from Covid. The principle of social justice must be at the heart of the conversation, and how to put it there is one of the defining questions of our era – brilliantly highlighted by this Relay.

Raise your voice

Here is an issue which links directly to our faith. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to raise our voices for those who cannot.

And we also have a responsibility for our own actions and the example we set.

At its heart, we are dealing with spiritual issues. We have disrupted the ecological balance of all that God created on Earth, and we owe it to God and to each other and to all the species we share the planet with to restore the balance.

A senior academic scientist recently said:

“I used to think that the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address these problems, but I was wrong. The top environment problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

But we people of faith do know how to do that. This is the greatest physical and spiritual challenge humanity has ever faced. And we have the tools and the understanding to go right to heart of it.

Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbour. Be good stewards of the earth and all that is in it. This is the challenge we face, because we recognise in ourselves our greed, envy, laziness, indifference, and our insatiable desire for more and more stuff.

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. We are not going to return to a life of simple hunter-gathering, back to nature and very basic consumption. That ship has sailed. We are bound up in a highly complex financial and economic web with global reach.

Religions are deeply implicated in this crisis, and they are deeply implicated in the way out of it. But we have so far mostly failed to integrate scientific and ecological findings into our preaching, teaching and living.

Religion’s got the power to appeal not just to our minds, but to our souls, and that’s where change is most needed. Conversion even.

Our actions are the true indication of our commitment. We have known about this looming crisis for decades, and for decades we have continued to assume that it is someone else’s problem.

We have collectively taken millions of plane flights and driven billions of miles using fossil fuels; we have eaten a tremendous amount of food cultivated through unsustainable and even dangerous processes; we’ve wasted unbelievable quantities of energy and water; we’ve thrown away billions of tons of non-biodegradable materials, polluting our oceans and our land; and we’ve created personal coatings of Teflon so that no responsibility has stuck to us.

Time to change

All this has to change. We can make choices which are good and not bad for the environment; we can do it visibly; we can talk to others about it, and spread the word and the message, and if enough of us do it, there is a real probability of a critical mass leading to wider behavioural change.

We saw it in the way in which driving while drunk has become more and more socially unacceptable. We’ve started to see it in many aspects of environmental awareness and care – we turn lights out more often; we sort our rubbish; we grow bee-friendly plants in our gardens or leave parts of them a little wild, and so on. And we live in a society and a world which is powerfully networked; so there is a real possibility for traction.

What messages shall we hold in our hearts? Here are some:

To consume in moderation. To think about how much is enough? How much do I need, as opposed to want, knowing how much I am conditioned to want what I do not need.

To be farsighted, to keep the far distant future in sight – the future of my children and grandchildren and their grandchildren– so that I will see the effects of my actions, or the consequences of my inactions now.

Not to lose hope. We can do this if we act now. If we act personally, locally, nationally and globally, and if we each play our part – the part we have been given, in this planetary drama which is being played out principally in the next decade.

So I salute and stand in solidarity with the young Christian climate activists and all who join them. We support you, congratulate you, pray for you and thank you for what you are doing. May God bless you who have walked this road to Reading from Cornwall, and you who will walk on from Reading to Glasgow, and may God go with you and guide your way.

Amen.


You can follow all the action from the diocese during the Young Christian Climate Network’s Relay to COP26 on our website.


1. [Facts taken from this article in the Guardian, based on a PNAS study, and refer to overall biomass, not numbers of individuals or species]
2. [From The Wildlife Trusts’ Reversing the Decline of Insects]

Biodiversity loss and climate change

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Bishop Steven speaks at the Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change

Biodiversity loss and climate change are inextricably linked. In a Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change earlier this week, Bishop Steven put his questions to the Rt Hon the Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

Their discussion touched on COP15 and COP26 and the links between climate change, poverty and pandemics. Watch the video on Bishop Steven’s Facebook page and see more of his work in the House of Lords.


Big Clean Switch

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A very simple step that we can take to reduce the carbon footprints of our homes is to switch to a renewable – otherwise known as a “green” or “clean” – tariff.  This change need not cost more and can sometimes save us money.  So definitely worth investigating!

Choosing a new energy supplier and switching may sound daunting – but our partners at Big Clean Switch have done the background research for us and make the switching process very simple.

Big Clean Switch vet every supplier they work with and every tariff offered to ensure the customer service and green credentials meet BCS’s required standards.

Why not give it a go?

On your bike!

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Could you consider cycling?

Why not give it a go when you return to travelling more. Here are some tips and inspiration from three regular Church House Oxford (CHO) cycle commuters.

Steven Buckley, Director of Communications

How long is your commute?

I live near Reading in Berkshire, about 35 miles from the office and a couple of miles from the local train station. Prior to lockdown, I commuted daily via the train and my trusty Brompton foldable bike (which is over 16 years old). If I’m feeling fit, I cycle in from central Oxford. Otherwise, I get off at Oxford Parkway and cycle from there.

What do you gain from cycling?

The great days are when the journey by train and bike is faster than it would be by car. Oftentimes it only takes a little longer. The big thing for me is getting to work and read on the journey, rather than dead time in the car, and I’m getting my daily exercise too while doing my bit for the planet.

What’s your top cycling tip?

Just start – sticking with anything new for only a few weeks will quickly become a habit, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in your energy and happiness levels. If you’re new to cycling or unconfident, remember it’s OK to ride ‘defensively’ about a foot away from the kerb. It means you’re safe and easily seen. A common worry is arriving sweaty at work. Avoid this by wearing natural fabrics, dressing in layers, and not cycling too fast. As long as you shower before you set off you won’t be smelly, even if you do sweat. If you do want to don some Lycra and race in, then the shower facilities at CHO are fab. cycletoworkday.org has some great tips if you’d like to find out more.

Any essential equipment?

Punctures do happen from time to time, so carry a spare innertube and pump. Good lights are important too, even in the summer months.

What about bad weather?

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. I always have a rain jacket and waterproof trousers with me.

Best moment?

Cycling out of CHO and sailing past lines of traffic on a summer evening is always a special moment!

Steven's folding bicycle

Rhodri Bowen, Parish Development Adviser (Berkshire Archdeaconry)

There have been times in my life when I have commuted by bike most days. Since becoming a PDA those opportunities have been more limited, but (outside of lockdown) I cycle when my meetings are local, and I’m always using the bike to get to the post office or the shops: definitely my preferred form of transport…

What do you gain from cycling?

I love cycling, but I’m not a recreational cyclist: you’ll find no Lycra here! Ever since I was a child trapped in a rural village with limited public transport I’ve always viewed cycling as the most efficient, environmentally friendly, cost-effective way to get places – with health benefits! I like my car, but I take great pleasure in leaving it untouched. I guess it’s also turned into a bit of an unintentional challenge to keep my road bike on the road without consuming more resources. The bike itself was saved from years of disuse languishing in someone’s shed and has been repaired using reclaimed parts. I was annoyed recently at having to buy a new spoke, but since then I’ve pulled a discarded wheel out of a skip so I won’t ever have to do that again! I’ve often picked up tyres from the tip with years of use still in them – some people think they need a new set when the tread is a little bit worn like on a car: they think it improves grip (it doesn’t).

What is your top cycling tip?

You don’t need to spend any money. I haven’t ever bought any special clothes for cycling. I’ve never bought a bike, for that matter: my last two bikes were both given away by their previous owners – one through Freecycle – and if you’re a bit resourceful you can maintain them with minimum cost. I know that most people won’t want to do the repairs and maintenance themselves, and taking bikes to a repair shop is pricey. Maybe you know someone who’ll be happy to do the work for a beer! When I returned my daughter to university recently I pumped up the tyres, adjusted the brakes and oiled the chains of all the bikes that belonged to her shared house. No beers though, sadly…

Any essential equipment?

A lock. Even my rusty old rat bike will disappear at some point if I don’t lock it up. It doesn’t need to be an expensive lock unless you’re leaving it anywhere overnight or at a railway station, in which case go for a strong U lock plus a chain/cable for both wheels and, ideally, the saddle, and lock it to a post. Oh, and a set of basic LED lights, preferably rechargeable.

What about bad weather?

I get wet. But waterproof trousers are the business. A set of mudguards can make things more pleasant. I was once cycling back from a church service in a thunderstorm with a guitar on my back that was acting as an (unhelpful) sail, so I don’t recommend that. On that occasion another member of the church really kindly stopped and took my guitar home!

Advantages of cycling?

When you’re in your car you can’t just stamp on the brakes and look at a butterfly, whereas I do that sort of thing all the time when I’m on the bike, and stopping to chat is easy. I used to regularly bike across Newbury, from the logjam of the A339 on one side to the busy A4 on the other. You went from the freneticism of the road to the oasis of the canal towpath, with the opportunity to hear birdsong and greet people on the boats. For that five minutes, the pace of life just slowed, giving space for breathing and listening.

 

Rhodri on his bicycle

Tracy Makin, School Support Officer

How long is your commute?

The most direct route for me is about 10 miles from home to office, but I tend to do longer to avoid town and in summer usually make my commute home into a long training ride. Currently I am also commuting off road a lot because of the race I am training for.

What’s in it for me?

Time to clear my head.

What’s your top cycling tip?

Just get out and enjoy it.

Essential equipment?

Helmet, lights and puncture repair kit.

What about bad weather?

With the correct clothing it doesn’t matter.

Best moment?

Crossing Port Meadow on a morning with hardly anyone around and enjoying beauty and quietness.

 

Tracy with her bicycle

Bishop of Oxford appointed to Lords select committee

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The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has been appointed to the Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change.

Environment Action Internships for Spring 2021

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Four students from the University of Oxford share their experiences from internships with the diocese’s Environment Action Programme.

Diocese of Oxford divests from fossil fuels

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Diocese of Oxford announces disinvestment from the fossil fuel sector in strive to become carbon net zero by 2035

Bucks Bee Club is a Hive of Activity

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A Buckinghamshire church’s weekly bee club has made quite a buzz with the younger members of the All Saints’ Coleshill congregation.

Environment Action Programme Internships

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Four students from the University of Oxford share their experiences from internships with the Diocese’s Environment Action Programme.

Taking Climate Action in the Benefice of Witney

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The rector of the Witney Benefice meets the local MP to discuss their cares and concerns on environmental issues and climate action.