Do you know what the Environment Agency’s poll of 25 leading environmental experts said is the second most important thing that will ‘save the planet’? It’s that religious leaders make the planet their priority. That’s why I’m rather excited that today (February 12) the General Synod of the Church of England will be discussing a motion on climate change and environmental issues (you can read the full text of the motion here).
The story that leads to this moment is rather lovely, coming as it does from a challenge by a 23-year old member of the congregation at St John’s Waterloo (the parish that contains the UK headquarters of Shell) when she questioned the C of E’s engagement with the fossil fuel industry. Who knew her challenge would work its way all the way up to the hallowed turf of General Synod?
Be that as it may, this motion is significant. The C of E has taken good steps in the past towards acknowledging the seriousness of climate change and the need to do something about it, producing the Sharing God’s Planet report in 2005 and launching its Shrinking The Footprint campaign the following year. But I think it’s true to say that the combination of post-Copenhagen despair and the 2008 economic recession led to the environmental agenda slipping down its priority list.
So will that change on Wednesday? Well, there are many of us out there who are hoping and praying it will. We live in a time in which global warming is now deemed ‘unequivocal’, with a 95% certainty that it is caused by human activities. The chances of us limiting global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (in itself considered disastrous) is looking increasingly slim, with scientists considering 4 and even 6 degrees. The impact of this is unimaginable.
We need the Church to wake up and take action. It is one of the biggest global networks that exists and it could make a huge difference. As England’s national church, the Church of England occupies a unique position of authority and visibility and is thus ideally placed to take a lead on these issues.
So, we need General Synod to take this motion seriously on Wednesday and take urgent action on climate change in all areas, including political pressure, disinvestment / reinvestment, adaptation, consumption, poverty and international development.
And you can help them do that. How?
1. I’ve been working with a group of key organisations and people to formulate a statement, welcoming the debate and urging General Synod to accept the motion. Please read this statement and spread it around in any way you can. In particular, let’s create a Twitter storm over the next few days (particularly Monday 10th through to Wednesday 12th), showing the C of E the support they have for taking action. When you tweet, use #GSClimate and
@CofEGenSyn. Take a look and see what people have been tweeting already.
2. Get in touch with your Synod rep to tell them about the statement and ask them to support the motion. The list of members (Bishops, clergy and laity) can be found here and a helpful sample letter/email is given here.
When we pray, ‘may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’, we commit ourselves to trust and we commit ourselves to action. Let’s help the Church of England do the same!