Opinion

Christians called to take lead on climate action

Christians must be at the forefront of the carbon reduction campaign

By Marguerite Marshall

November 21 2018Christians must be at the forefront of the campaign to reduce carbon emissions, argues Marguerite Marshall in the wake of the latest IPCC report warning of climate catastrophe. Ms Marshall is a Uniting Church member trained by Al Gore as a leader with The Climate Reality Project.

Christians have been at the forefront of important social movements, including the movements to end slavery and apartheid, and racial inequality in the US. But now we face perhaps our greatest challenge.

October’s UN report on global warming says that emergency action is needed if we want to have a safe climate for our children. If we don’t act now our descendants won’t have a liveable planet, according to 97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists.

The report says we must almost halve our C02 emissions by 2030 and cut them to zero by around 2050.

To succeed, carbon emissions must begin to reduce from 2020, according to Mission 2020, a campaign for a safe climate. This would limit a rise in temperature to a relatively safe climate of 1.5C above pre-industrial times.

But according to current plans the world will exceed this safe limit.

Commitments made in the 2015 Paris Accord will result in 3-4C warming by the century’s end. However, the signatories agreed to review and try to reduce these targets. Worryingly the US aims to withdraw from this agreement.

Today’s average temperature rise of around 1C already brings more extreme climate. This is especially bad news for the poor who are already impacted most by climate-related extreme weather events and sea level rise.

With the West’s growing secularisation, this is an opportunity to demonstrate and spread Jesus’ message of love and hope. Christians know that anything is possible with God. Our task is to love others and care for all creation.

It’s clear that our leaders are not solving this enormous problem. So what can be done?

As individuals we can start by living more simply, which accords with the way Jesus taught us to be. The global “Living the Change” campaign, spearheaded in Australia by the multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), challenges believers in various spiritual traditions to make concrete commitments to live more simply, in line with their deeply held beliefs and values.

“There are indeed sacrifices, but there are many benefits that come with simpler lifestyles,” ARRCC president Thea Ormerod says.

“Just as following Jesus brings fullness of life, moving towards plant-based diets, walking and cycling bring health benefits; using public transport and reducing air travel slows down the frenetic pace of life; more energy efficiency and renewable energy means less pollution; congruence with personal values enhances self-worth.”

Internationally millions of people are taking emergency action in their local communities.

More than 9000 cities representing about 10 per cent of the world population belong to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. They plan with partners to limit global warming to 1.5C or less. More than a third of the US population is defying the US government’s plan to pull out of the Paris UN climate agreement by November 2020. The “We Are Still In” campaign members vow to cut their greenhouse gases, and signatories represent around 120 million Americans, including more than 1000 governors, mayors, businesses, investors and universities.

In February, 70 local Australian councils, representing more than 7.5 million people, vowed to take action to tackle climate change, according to the Climate Council. Darebin, Moreland and Byron Bay Councils have emergency plans to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero carbon emissions - Darebin by 2020, Byron Bay by 2025 and Moreland by 2045.

Tasmania in 2015-16 became Australia’s first jurisdiction to achieve zero net emissions. South Australia aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Is Australia’s population too small to make a difference? Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter according to the International Energy Agency, so we have a strong impact on the rest of the world.

For a reasonable chance of a safe climate, 90-95 per cent of global fossil fuel reserves must stay underground, and we must turn to renewable energy, according to the Climate Council.

Yet Australia has not stopped Adani from building what will be the biggest coal power plant in the southern hemisphere.

The good news is that when we know we must change quickly we can, as the US did, moving to a war economy in WWII.

Christians can show God’s love by leading the way in emergency action needed for a safe climate future.

Find out more about the Living the Change campaign and make a commitment here: https://livingthechange.net/commitment-tool