So What Do We Do? From Swords to Ploughshares: Climate and Conflict Part 3

January 30, 2020

In this series we are looking at the link between climate breakdown and conflict. In Part One we looked at how the two issues are linked, where in the world the problem is most acute and how it is affecting people generally. In Part Two we unpacked some of those issues in more detail, looking at how the concerns of climate breakdown and conflict are often mutually reinforcing. Here in Part Three, we consider what action we can take to respond to this unfolding crisis in our world.

Many of us reading this won’t be living in conflict areas nor be in a position to work directly into those situations with their complex, large-scale problems. But there are still things that we can do to respond:

1. Campaign: on climate action, adaptation finance, independent aid

First and foremost, if we want to see climate-induced conflict reduced we need to see the climate crisis tackled, through slashing global carbon emissions. At the UN climate talks in Paris in 2015, 196 countries agreed to phase out the use of highly polluting fossil fuels to keep global temperature rise to well below 2℃. We need to hold our governments accountable by asking what they are doing to achieve this and what more could be done. In the UK, this means delivering net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible. Additionally, we must call for alignment of our national contribution to keep us on track for 1.5℃ of heating globally, as well as using our diplomatic influence in the run up to hosting the UN climate talks later this year to press other countries to do the same. We need to demand that all overseas investments are compatible with the aims of the Paris agreement, moving away entirely from fossil fuels, and increasing investment in zero-carbon energy development. One way to join with others in lobbying the government in the UK is through the Climate Coalition, a network of over 100 organisations made up of 19 million individuals, all dedicated to action against global heating.

As well as the crucial preventative work of cutting emissions, we also need to call for measures to adapt and reverse the damage that has already been done. These will include climate adaptation initiatives and financial support from richer countries for poorer nations to help them continue to develop using green energy sources, as outlined in the Paris agreement, with an ambitious plan for international climate finance post-2020. Alongside this, it is vital we keep independent aid a priority in the UK, with its own Department for International Development (DFID) and Secretary of State. A merger with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) would lead to less aid going to the world’s poorest people and to help the situations of conflict and climate breakdown they are facing. So we can also make a difference by lobbying to maintain this crucial government department as a separate entity, where it can be the most effective.

2. Support organisations working on peacemaking

Another way that we can help tackle the issue of conflict which exacerbates the climate crisis around the world is to support those organisations that are working to alleviate it. Peacebuilding is an increasingly important part of good development in many places, and it is an area that Tearfund has invested in heavily in recent years. As an organisation, Tearfund has made working in fragile states affected by conflict one of its three corporate priorities, and has created a team dedicated to peacebuilding work with affected communities to see context-appropriate, locally-owned and sustainable solutions to issues of fragility. Its work encompasses the spectrum of responding to immediate needs, supporting people’s recovery and building their resilience, and the longer term addressing of root causes. By giving to Tearfund, you will support the work we do in this and other areas, and you can help to make a real difference in people’s lives. Please do read more and give here.

3. Pray

Crucial for Christians, alongside calling for change and giving our money to support this work, is prayer. So another way to take action to help alleviate climate and conflict issues is to bring these concerns into our churches in sermons and prayers, helping people understand why involving ourselves is a Christian calling. Let us pray for peace in places around the world that are experiencing violence in the face of climate-induced difficulties, for their governments to know how to respond and to have the resources to do so, and for factions and rebel leaders to find solutions for the issues at the root of conflict and fragility. I strongly believe that change happens when we pray, and particularly when we pray together, and this year, linked with number one above, we need to stand together to pray for climate action. Please join in – we need you!

4. Live low-carbon, peace-filled lives

Finally, if we’re going to see climate-induced conflict addressed, then alongside pushing governments to take action on the climate crisis, supporting organisations that are working to combat conflict and praying to see a change, we must also consider our own lives and lifestyles. This means thinking about our personal carbon emissions and consumer habits, recognising that we hold part of the responsibility for the difficulties we are experiencing. But being part of the problem means that we are also empowered to be part of the solution! There are lots of steps we can take in our ordinary lives to make changes and help resolve these issues. We can change our eating habits to a predominantly vegetable and grain-based diet. We can use less polluting means of travel to get around, such as public transport, car shares or electric cars – and of course flying significantly less, or not flying at all, is one of the most effective things we can do. We can switch our domestic energy supplier to one that uses 100% renewable energy, or even install our own solar panels, as well as planting trees and reducing our energy use when we can (such as by choosing energy efficient appliances and turning things off wherever possible). And let’s work to live peace-filled lives ourselves, caring for others and seeking peace in our relationships.

Rather than losing hope in the face of these vast issues of climate and conflict, we can choose to act, to contribute to the solution and be part of reversing the terrible trends we are seeing in our world. It has becoming increasingly clear that the fate of the planet cannot be separated from its effects on people – and this fact will perhaps see both the climate crisis and human conflict addressed with the urgency they require at all levels of society, starting with us.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Ian Fraser February 25, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Hello, Ruth, I have read Saying Yes To Life, watched the videos (Lord Rees was great) and the environmental house group I am part of is running a Lent course based on this book. I have a question about the word “kinds”. In Genesis 1 verse 24 this term is used several times and I am confused as to what is meant by the term. If it means that the animal, or plant, insect, microbe, etc., emerged fully formed, then this is not actually correct. You have probably heard of speciation, and its explanation in the book On The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, that all life on Earth is linked and shares a common ancestor somewhere on the tree of life.

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