Observers overseas may be wondering what has happened to Australia’s commitment to addressing climate change. They are seeing a government which is determined to repeal legislation which had begun to reduce the nation’s emissions in certain sectors, and has repeatedly blocked consensus in negotiations at recent international meetings. Faith communities have been anything but silent in response.
On March 26th, leaders from a range of Christian traditions joined a multi-faith effort to urge the government – and all Australians - to act responsibly in relation to protecting Creation. They released an open letter, visited members of Parliament and held a multi-faith prayer vigil outside the headquarters of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).
Among the signatories are the President of Catholic Religious Australia, Sr Annette Cunliffe, the President of the Uniting Church Assembly, Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad and the Chair of the Hindu Council of Australia, Professor Nihal Agar.
“As a relatively wealthy nation, Australia must make a choice,” said spokesperson Rev. Brian Brown, Moderator of the Uniting Church NSW/ACT. “We could lead the world in renewable power generation and thus choose a path which protects the ecosystems which support life. Or we could continue our reliance on coal for our own short-term self-interest and condemn many millions of the world’s poor and our own children and grandchildren to an unthinkable future.”
The lobbying coincided with the official release of the Working Group II report of the UN Fifth Assessment Report on March 28th. (See http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/) It shows how under-prepared the world is for climate impacts, and how urgent the need is to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels.
The faith leaders were therefore urging the government to make large contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund to assist developing countries with their adaptation needs. The Working Group II report notes that 95 percent of deaths from extreme weather events occur in the developing world.
Anglican Right Rev’d Professor Stephen Pickard is the Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. He spoke passionately at the prayer vigil: “To protect the interests of a small elite over and above the common good is not the proper role of governments. To forget our dependence on the Earth and the need to respect its limits is to fail in a central duty.”
Of the Minerals Council of Australia and its member companies, Professor Pickard said, “It is no longer morally acceptable to advance the interests of enterprises which are destroying the planet’s ecosystems. No short-term profits can justify it, no advantage on the stock markets, no matter how great, can make it alright.”
Professor Pickard joined others to hand-deliver a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the MCA, challenging the organization to stop its support for the mining of fossil fuels.
Bishop George Browning expanded on the views of those involved in the advocacy effort in The Canberra Times.
Author: Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change
March 27th, 2014