Churches urge PM to stand firm on Paris climate accord after Trump takes US out

Bishop Philip Huggins says the Paris climate deal is about the urgent survival of humanity

NCCA President Bishop Philip Huggins said: "This climate deal, signed by 195 countries, is about action and trust that our leaders understand that there is no second chance at this."

By Mark Brolly

June 2 2017 

The National Council of Churches in Australia has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to show leadership in commitment to the Paris global climate agreement after US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the process.

Melbourne Anglican Assistant Bishop Philip Huggins, the NCCA’s President, said the momentous climate agreement last year was “bigger than just one country, one person or a handful of climate sceptics”.

“It is about the urgent survival of humanity, the ability for all children to be able to born into and live in a world with clean air and clean water,” Bishop Huggins said.

President Trump fulfilled a key election promise when he announced on 1 June (Washington time) that “in order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord… but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers”.

“So we’re getting out.  But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.  And if we can, that’s great.  And if we can’t, that’s fine. 

“As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens,” Mr Trump said at the White House Rose Garden announcement. “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers -- who I love -- and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.

“Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

Bishop Huggins said Australia’s Pacific neighbours in Tuvalu and the Carteret Islands were already feeling pressure to flee their country because of a rise in sea level. In Australia, unprecedented heat waves were having serious consequences for the land, livestock, vegetation and homes.  

“This climate deal, signed by 195 countries, is about action and trust that our leaders understand that there is no second chance at this,” he said.  

“Global warming is real, and it will have devastating effects on us in our lifetime.  Prime Minister Turnbull should lead in protecting this planet for our children and for their children, regardless of the short-sightedness of the US President or climate sceptics.”

Sister Elizabeth Delaney, the General Secretary of the NCCA, said: “Prime Minister Turnbull, a man of faith, will understand that Australians are looking to him for leadership on one of the biggest threats facing us and future generations.

“Australia needs to keep its focus on the task of implementing and strengthening its commitments to its people and those in surrounding countries for a 1.5-degree warming limit.  Our very survival is at stake.”

Mr Turnbull said President Trump's announcement was not a surprise and was “a very core campaign commitment of his”.

“It is disappointing,” the Prime Minister told a news conference at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 2 June.

Mr Turnbull is in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of defence ministers, defence force chiefs and senior security officials in the Indo-Pacific region, and for talks with the city state’s Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

“We would prefer the United States to remain part of the agreement,” Mr Turnbull said. “We are committed to the Paris agreement. We are on track to meet our 2030 targets of a reduction in emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels. And, I should say, we are doing well. Our emissions, whether measured against by head of population or... against GDP, are the lowest they've been for 27 years.

“The important thing is to ensure that we maintain energy supplies that are affordable, that are reliable, secure and that we meet our emissions targets and we are on track to do just that… the momentum towards a lower emissions energy sector is irresistible.”

The inaugural Chair of the Anglican Communion Environment Network and retired Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop George Browning, described President Trump’s decision as “a war on the planet, including a war on the American people”.

“The situation is serious, but were we expecting anything different?” Bishop Browning wrote on his blog, In Service of the Common Good. “Trump is making America less and less relevant to the goal of a fair and sustainable world. It would thus be foolish of Australia to place the same value on its alliances as it has in the past, a new world order is emerging, a world order that under Trump America is being reduced to a bit player rather than holding the lead role.”

The Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry, also criticised President Trump’s decision.

“With the announcement by President Donald Trump of his decision to withdraw the commitment made by the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, I am reminded of the words of the old spiritual which speaks of God and God’s creation in these words, ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’,” Bishop Curry said. “The whole world belongs to God, as Psalm 24 teaches us. God’s eye is ever on even the tiny sparrow, as Jesus taught and the song says (Luke 12:6). And we human beings have been charged with being trustees, caretakers, stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-31).

“The United States has been a global leader in caring for God’s creation through efforts over the years on climate change. President Trump’s announcement changes the US’s leadership role in the international sphere. Despite this announcement, many US businesses, states, cities, regions, non-governmental organisations and faith bodies like the Episcopal Church can continue to take bold action to address the climate crisis.  The phrase, ‘We’re still in’, became a statement of commitment for many of us who, regardless of this decision by our President, are still committed to the principles of the Paris Agreement.

“We know that caring for God’s creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment, but also good for the health and welfare of our people. The US is currently creating more clean jobs faster than job creation in nearly every other sector of the economy, and unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy sector is also evident in many other major economies.

“My prayer is that we in the Episcopal Church will, in this and all things, follow the way, the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus by cultivating a loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, all others in the human family, and with all of God’s good creation.”