Faith leaders write to the prime minister about climate change

21 February 2020


Diverse senior faith leaders, including Bishop Vincent Long, have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison appealing for stronger action the address climate change.

Senior leaders, including Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, from faith communities with over 10 million members across Australia have urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to show leadership after Australia’s devastating summer by committing to stronger climate action and urgently scaling up the adoption of alternatives to coal, oil and gas.

In an open letter, leaders from Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths urged the Prime Minister to heed climate science, which shows all countries have to achieve deep, rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“This summer’s unprecedented bushfires, air pollution, hail, flooding, and drought have been exacerbated by climate change. These climate-fuelled events have taken innocent lives and damaged God’s Creation,” said The Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane.

“Our earth is a gift from God, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to protect this precious Gift for the sake of generations to come. The School Strikes for Climate show that today’s children and grandchildren are righteously angry about the ecological crisis they are inheriting. We owe it to them to create a safer future.”

“As this country’s highest elected official and a man of faith, the Prime Minister has a moral duty to look after God’s creation, and the millions of lives that are at risk from worsening climate impacts,” said Dr Catt.

Religious leaders also called on the Prime Minister to deliver a plan to support the Australian economy’s transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, without leaving a single worker behind.

Reverend Dr Ray Williamson OAM, President of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council, said: “Just as our religious beliefs are deeply rooted in scripture, our response to the climate crisis must be deeply rooted in the wisdom offered by science.”

“The fact is, we cannot burn fossil fuels at the current rate if we are to be good stewards of this planet. Experts also tell us that a combination of renewable energy and storage technology can power the world affordably and reliably.”

“The Prime Minister and his government should show moral leadership and plan for the measures that will keep people safe from worsening extreme weather, economic uncertainty, and deadly climate impacts,” said Dr Williamson.


The Letter to the Prime Minister


Dear Prime Minister,

Today we are writing to you as a fellow person of faith about the climate crisis that has been playing out so tragically in the form of massive bushfires this summer. This is a national catastrophe. We stand on the brink of a global one.

This land now called Australia is very vulnerable to climate impacts. Aboriginal Communities in arid areas are at great risk, as are the Torres Strait Islanders from increasingly hostile oceans. Farmers face more extreme droughts and floods. Our concern is also for the tens of millions around the world who are already being displaced annually by other climate-related disasters. There is even worse to come.

The insight of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait leaders, that all things are connected, is affirmed by the overwhelming scientific consensus. There is much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have survived and thrived on their lands for over 2,000 generations.

Scientists and former emergency services chiefs have been very clear that the fires have been made much worse by human-induced climate change. The warmer temperatures and prolonged drought have made the land progressively drier.

You have said that you recognise this. Yet you have also insisted that your climate policies will not change. This, despite global views that Australia’s climate policies are amongst the worst in the world.

We urge you and your Government to find within yourselves that which is most noble, most caring and courageous. It will take courage to admit that policy directions chosen so far have been unwise, but this is what this moment in history calls for.

As Parliament continues to convene on the land of the Ngunnawal people, we are asking you and your colleagues in the Coalition to unite behind the science. As it says in the Book of Proverbs “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.” There is now an abundance of clear expert advice. The best counsel available is telling us unequivocally that this is a planetary emergency.

Almost all peer-reviewed articles by climate scientists agree on the main points: climate change is real and it is caused by human activity, primarily the burning of coal, oil and gas, together with animal agriculture and land clearing. Human ingenuity has developed viable alternatives for each of these destructive practices. What is needed is strong and visionary leadership to support their urgent adoption.

We are asking you to have the wisdom, courage and humility to admit that it is time to chart a new course when it comes to climate policy. It is not about “getting the balance right,” as you have put it, when so much is at stake, both here and around the world. Old arguments and ideological stands need to be re-examined. It is no longer about balancing the protection of natural resources with economic considerations, but about making life and health the priority of your administration, trusting that this choice will bring economic benefit and a sense of hope and promise to all Australians.

With the wake-up call that has been the bushfire crisis, we ask that your Government be guided by those experts who offer pathways to a thriving and sustainable future, including pathways for regional and vulnerable communities.

Only then might our children’s hope for a better future be restored. Only then might your Government leave a proud legacy by which to be remembered.

Yours faithfully,

Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM, Chair of the Catholic Bishops Commission on Justice, Mission and Service

Reverend Dr Ray Williamson OAM, President, NSW Ecumenical Council

The Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, Dean, St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, Anglican Church of Southern Queensland

The Very Reverend Fr Dr Shenouda Mansour, Coptic Orthodox Church, Diocese of Sydney and Affiliated Regions

Most Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso AM

Most Venerable Thich Quang Ba, former Chair, current Committee Member, Australian Sangha Association

Most Venerable Ajahn Sujato Bikkhu

Dr Rateb Jneid, President of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils/Muslims Australia

Rabbi David Kunin, Chair, Moetzah of Australian, New Zealand and Asian Rabbis

Emeritus Professor Desmond Cahill OAM, Chair, Religions for Peace Australia, Deputy Moderator, Religions for Peace Asia

Ann Zubrick, Presiding Clerk of Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia

Dr Carolyn Tan, Chair, Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia

Brother Peter Carroll fms, President, Catholic Religious Australia

Prakash Mehta, President, Hindu Council of Australia

Brooke Prentis, CEO, Common Grace

Charlie Hogg, National Coordinator, Brahma Kumaris Australia

Dr Gawaine Powell Davies, President, Buddhist Council of NSW

Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

With thanks to ARRCC.


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