Bishop John Arnold & Bishop William Nolan’s letter in The Times Red Box
This week the House of Lords is discussing the new Environment and Business Bill, which if passed without crucial amendments to tackle all forms of deforestation — not just those classed as illegal — would mean Britain may be complicit in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Recently proposed law changes in Brazil plan to legalise currently illegal deforestation practices — endangering countless indigenous communities, the rainforest and contributing to further climate change.
If Boris Johnson wants “global Britain” to be a force for good, then the British government must take urgent action for a fairer, greener and just world. It is simply not enough to face inwards, focusing on Britain’s own emissions (which account for roughly 1.1 per cent of the world’s total), we must become global leaders, and use the COP26 summit as the stage to make bold and brave commitments to tackling the climate crisis.
As we gradually emerge from the tragedies and restrictions of the pandemic we are faced with remarkable challenges and opportunities. We will emerge better or worse, not the same and as Pope Francis calls us all, “at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project”.
When the UK hosts COP26 in November this year, the leadership of this international summit must be the catalyst for transformation and hope to reach out to all those who are facing the harsh reality of the climate crisis and the continuing threat of the Covid virus.
As a global church we witness the voices from our partner dioceses and parishes in other parts of the world – in Brazil, Bangladesh, Fiji, and South Sudan to name a few – their stories of drought and hunger, extreme flooding, rising sea levels polluting groundwater wells and more frequent cyclones and hurricanes washing away lives, homes and livelihoods, alerting us to how fragile life and survival can be from one moment to the next, for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
In the lead up to the COP26 summit there must be a renewal of hope and faith starting with agreements on free and fair access to vaccines including a waiving of intellectual property rights. Covid and climate don’t recognise national borders and we must be approaching them both with the common good in our hearts.
For climate this means keeping to below the vital 1.5C temperature rise which scientists tell us is vital for life and realising those promises of financial support to those already suffering from this climate crisis.
All this must prompt a wider discussion, intent and will to “emerge better” to protect our common home. And as one of the richest nations in the world, it is our moral duty to immediately end support for new fossil fuels, both domestically and internationally.
We must all look to reset our lifestyles and way of thinking. As individuals and church our own local concern and action is necessary, removing the obstacles on the path to climate transition, by making the small and sometimes bigger changes needed to our day-to-day life that are more sustainable.
For example, in Salford Diocese our Guardians of Creation project is working to rapidly decarbonise our diocese and provide a toolkit to support the interest from others to do the same. Dioceses in Scotland are in the process of divesting from fossil fuels investments and all parishes are being encouraged to sign up to schemes which encourage the environmental mission of the church and solidarity with all.
Scientists tell us that time is limited. Our Christian faith gives us the hope needed to drive the change we want to see, being part of the solution to the climate crisis through our words and actions. We hope the government chooses to do the same.
John Arnold is Bishop of Salford and William Nolan is Bishop of Galloway