2 August 2023
Australian religious climate activists hope to strengthen their links with Pacific faith communities ahead of the United Nations Conference of Parties climate meeting in 2026.
The Inter-congregational Voice for Climate Change and Australian Religious Response to Climate Change want to collaborate with Pacific faith groups and people to address escalating climate change.
Rising sea levels and extreme weather events including cyclones have been increasing across the region.
Nations such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu have experienced some of the worst impacts, including widespread damage to homes and infrastructure.
The Pacific Conference of Churches called on the World Council of Churches to do more to raise awareness among congregations and governments about the plight of Pacific communities.
The Inter-congregational Voice for Climate Change said a united approach was important because climate change was a bigger threat to global security than anything else.
Chair Father Claude Mostowik said the organisation aimed to mobilise a strong faith cohort during Australia’s campaign to host COP 31.
Mr Mostowik said having the climate conference close to home presented an opportunity for Pacific communities whose environmental concerns were often largely marginalised, to be heard on the international stage.
He said his organisation’s work revolved around helping to amplify the voices and concerns of people and churches from the region.
Some of their biggest worries included the damage and loss of important cultural places and items, the salination of crops and water, and that they might have to leave their countries, Mr Mostowik said.
Prior to the pandemic the organisation trained mainly young people from Kiribati and Tuvalu to take the lead in responding to climate change.
It brought them to Sydney and Newcastle to observe coal industry activities, and took them to Parliament house to talk to politicians.
“It’s not that we’re telling them what to do. They know best what needs to be done to help their region, and we give a little encouragement for them to take the lead themselves,” Mr Mostowik said.
He said the organisation was about to start a new youth leadership initiative with Torres Strait communities, in conjunction with the Edmund Rice Centre.
ARRCC president Thea Ormerod said her group and the PCC established a relationship in recent years through their common push for non-fossil fuel proliferation and fair climate finance.
Ms Ormerod said the ARRCC was preparing to draft a long-term action plan towards COP 31, and wanted to consult further with it and other Pacific community stakeholders before doing so.
She said they wanted to find out what Pacific faith leaders wanted partnerships with Australia’s religious climate change advocates to look like.
Ms Ormerod said despite the seriousness of what the Pacific states faced on the climate change frontlines, there didn’t seem to be much of a response from Australia’s religious communities to their neighbours’ plight.
They’re perhaps not moved in the way that Jesus needs us to respond to those in crisis, she said.
“How we live would look much different if we did follow as Jesus taught us,” Ms Ormerod said.