Australian Catholic Bishops call on governments to tackle climate change

2 May 2018

AUSTRALIAN bishops joined more than 170 faith leaders from across the Commonwealth calling on governments to turn “words into action” on climate change.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, vice-president Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, on behalf of the Australian bishops was one of dozens of signatories of a letter that states “not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected” by the changing climate, with the greatest impact felt by the poorest people in the group of nations.

Archbishops, church moderators and rabbis from all continents in the Commonwealth have signed the letter delivered to politicians attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to pursue “every effort” to keep global temperature rises below the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius

The meeting took place at Buckingham Palace, St James’ Palace and Windsor Castle from April 16-20.

From around the Commonwealth, some of the religious figures to sign the letter included Cardinal Maurice Piat of Mauritius; the president of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire; the general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, Vijayesh Lal; and Senior Rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, Alexandra Wright.

From among the Pacific Commonwealth nations, where some of the most dramatic effects of climate change are being felt, signatories include John Ribat, Cardinal Archbishop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania (Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu); Sr Eveline Crotty, leader of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea, Caritas New Zealand  director Julianne Hickey, Cardinal John Dew, Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington,  New Zealand; and Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn, who is the president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.

The official website for the summit said that “urgent action” on climate change was needed “to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience” and noted that 39 of the 53 Commonwealth countries were classed as small or vulnerable states.

The faith leaders’ statement is the latest in a series of calls by religious figures for action on climate change at international summits.

Several heads of government cited Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment as a catalyst for the success of the UN climate talks that resulted in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The letter says: “We, faith leaders from across the Commonwealth, representing peoples of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas, come together in friendship and co-operation to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

“Not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected or unthreatened by the impacts of climate change. Commonwealth citizens, especially the poorest, struggle to thrive amidst our changing climate.

“Subsistence communities in African countries struggle to grow crops in increasingly arid earth. In the Pacific, rising sea levels threaten the existence of whole countries. In Asia, salination is driving people from their land. Arctic communities’ ways of life are undermined.

“Ever more violent and unpredictable storms devastate the Caribbean.

“At the scale of the Commonwealth we can see that the crisis of poverty and the crisis of ecology are one; each of our faith traditions reminds us of the deep interconnectedness of people and our planet.

“As a common problem, this crisis requires a common solution. And it is needed now.

“The Charter of the Commonwealth affirms the foundations for cooperation between Commonwealth nations. But it is time to turn words into action. We call on the Heads of Government gathering in London to commit to urgent action on climate change adaptation and mitigation in line with the Paris Agreement and to pursue every effort to keep the increase in average global temperature below 1.5 degrees.”

By Mark Bowling.

This story was first published in The Catholic Leader newspaper from the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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