The following article by Bishop Nicholas Holtam appeared in the Church Times this week.
This year’s season of prayer for God’s creation has seldom seemed more timely
THIS September marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption by Britain of Churches Together in Britain: a season beginning at the start of the Orthodox Church year on 1 September, running through to the feast of St Francis on 4 October. It offers an excellent time for churches to link the popular tradition of harvest festival into a theology of creation and the care of our common home.
In parallel, it is also ten years since the UK passed the Climate Change Act, and 30 years since the first convening of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body which assesses the science related to climate change. The latter will meet in Korea as Creationtide draws to a close to publish its sixth assessment report, which will be a key resource for world governments as they ponder on making good the momentous yet fragile commitments of the Paris Accord.
This year’s season of prayer for God’s creation has seldom seemed more timely.
Alongside Creationtide materials for worship and discussion, the Church of England has also published a series of Letters for Creation written by Anglican Primates around the globe (extracts in this pdf of the whole article), highlighting the effects of climate change in different regions. The message running through the accounts is clear: climate change is here, it is current, and it is affecting the poorest and most disadvantaged communities first and most severely.
While the Government’s review of the goals of the Climate Change Act is likely to detail some significant achievements, we are only beginning the changes required over the next 30 years to move to a sustainable footing.
The current country commitments to the Paris Agreement will deliver temperature rises of well above the target of no more than 2°C global warming. The ambition of 1.5°C will be even harder to achieve. For some of the more vulnerable, such as the Pacific island states that pushed for this at Paris, it is the difference between life and death.
In Paris, governments committed to the regular review of targets. Five years on, 2020 will be an important staging post, and governments need to step up their climate action now. We can also do more as individuals and communities by slashing energy waste and increasing efficiency, as well as by encouraging the new technology that is beginning to deliver an industrial revolution.
The Church of England has made significant strides to support this, with recently reported success in helping parishes to move to green energy tariffs, and as a voice in the ear of energy companies through its investment portfolio, leading shareholder resolutions which put pressure on large companies to expedite their transition to greener impacts. But we cannot stop here; individually and collectively, we can do more, and must do more.
Given what we know, we have a choice: life or death; a short-sighted consumerism or a longer-term sustainable renewal of God’s earth. The choice is ours, and it has an impact now, and on our children’s children. My prayer this Creationtide is that we will take the only real option.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam is the Bishop of Salisbury and the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment.