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Australian churches lagging on renewable energy switch

More than 3500 UK churches have either switched their electricity from fossil fuels to renewables or registered to do so.

September 26 2016Australian churches have been accused of lagging behind their UK counterparts in switching to renewable energy.

More than 3500 UK churches have either switched their electricity from fossil fuels to renewables or registered to do so, according to figures released by UK charities on 1 September, the day named by Pope Francis as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the beginning of the Season of Creation, a global Christian ecumenical time of prayer and work for the protection of the environment.

An ecumenical alliance of charities – Christian Aid, Tearfund, and CAFOD – released the figures of churches moving to greener energy. Of those churches, 2000 are in the 16 Roman Catholic dioceses in the UK that now run entirely on renewable energy, and a further 700 are across other denominations that joined up through the Big Church Switch campaign, run earlier this year by Christian Aid and Tearfund.

About one third of Quaker meeting houses and almost all of the Salvation Army’s citadels have also switched to renewable energy sources.

Anglican Bishop Stephen Pickard, the Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, said the massive take-up of clean, renewable energy by churches in the UK was a great sign of hope. “It would be inspiring if Australian churches could do the same,” Bishop Pickard said. “We have an abundance of sun and wind and we are well aware of the damage done by the burning of fossil fuels. What are we waiting for?”

Australian churches have accelerated the adoption of rooftop solar panels in recent years and many Christian organisations have resolved to divest their holdings in fossil fuel extraction, while many people from faith communities participated in the People’s Climate Marches late last year.

Anglican leaders across the world welcomed the announcement by US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou early last month that their countries would ratify last November’s Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, said he was “very happy” to welcome the ratification.

“Anglican theologies in Asia-Pacific have great ecological and environmental awareness, with values that also have a deep history in many Chinese societies and cultural traditions,” Archbishop Kwong said. “These contextual affinities offer many opportunities for dialogue and meaningful partnership and I expect our region to give real leadership and encouragement to the wider Communion on these questions.”

Fijian Bishop Api Qiliho of Vanua Levu and Taveuni in the Diocese of Polynesia said Anglicans around the world “need to thank God” for Presidents Obama and Xi agreeing to ratify the agreement.

“I truly believe that God is not going to ask us how He created the earth, but He will surely ask us what we did with what He created,” Bishop Qiliho said.

The Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, Bishop Nick Holtam of Salisbury, said: “I congratulate the USA and China, as the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, on formally ratifying the agreement. It is a huge step towards the agreement coming into force.

“The care of creation is a top priority for every Christian disciple in our day. It’s clear in scripture that God wants us to steward this beautiful Earth... We all know there is no planet B.”

Bishop Geoff Davies, founder of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, said the ratification of the Paris Agreement by both the US and China was of “immense importance”.

“We pray it is an indication that the world’s leadership is beginning to take climate change seriously,” he wrote on the Anglican Communion News Service. “The world’s two largest economies, who are also the largest carbon emitters (China 20.1 per cent and the USA 17.9 per cent), have agreed to reduce their emissions. This is setting an example to the world which will, it is hoped, produce a ‘ratification surge’ to obtain ratification by the 55 countries needed to implement the Paris Agreement.”

The Paris Agreement commits countries to a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; with an aim to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees to “significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change”. It won’t come into effect until at least 55 countries accounting in total for at least 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have ratified it. Twenty-six of the 180 signatories to the Paris Agreement have ratified it, accounting for some 39.06 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.

[ACNS, Church Times]