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Faith for the Climate

[ UPDATE : I NEED TO MAKE CLEAR THAT THIS REPORT IS A PERSONAL AND PARTIAL ACCOUNT OF THE MEETING. SOME PEOPLE IN THE WIDER PROCESS COULD NOT TAKE PART, AND WILL NEED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO OFFER THEIR INPUT AND FEEDBACK BEFORE THE FINAL CONSOLIDATED AND OFFICIAL REPORT IS CIRCULATED. AT THE NEXT MEETING THERE WILL NEED TO BE A PRIOR AGREEMENT ABOUT THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA TO INFORMALLY REPORT ON DEVELOPMENTS. CORRECTIONS TO THIS WEB LOG POST WILL BE ACCEPTED AND WELCOMED – AFTER ALL – THERE IS ALWAYS A MARGIN OF ERROR IN COMPREHENSION. EDITS TO THIS WEB LOG POST ARE ALSO ACCEPTED AND WELCOMED – THERE MAY BE SOME THINGS THAT PEOPLE THINK SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONFIDENTIAL. I HAVE TRIED TO LEAVE OUT THINGS THAT ARE OBVIOUSLY WORKS IN PROGRESS OR SENSITIVE, BUT I MIGHT NOT HAVE RECOGNISED THEM ALL. MY APOLOGIES IF I HAVE STEPPED ON ANY TOES. ]

At last, we have a name.

Since February, when Canon Giles Goddard convened a meeting of non-governmental organisations to answer the question “Where is the voice of the church on climate change ?”, this creative caravan has been nameless. Nobody really wanted to create a new entity. Nobody wanted to limit the type or number of actions that could be taken. Everybody was deferring – except Christian Aid – who as usual had already formulated a plan. Well, and Tearfund, too. We worked up some Twitter hashtags in a cafe, but this was dismantled and today we had a second brainstorm that appears to have named what it is that we are, and what we are mainly doing. We are now “Faith for the Climate”, and we are no longer entirely Christian.

Long, long ago, in a United Nations conference far, far away, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), put out the call for the citizens of world to raise their voices in support of a global climate treaty, scheduled to be signed in Paris, 2015. Building the Will for Action should not make Paris 2015 the final endpoint, we all agreed today. We learned that lesson from the hopeless, outcome-less Conference of the Parties at Copenhagen in 2009. The aim is to provide a number – a number of people who are actively demanding this global climate treaty, and “Faith for the Climate” is working on five strands of activity :-

1. Political

The Hope for the Future campaign, spearheaded by Michael Bayley and Jemima Parker, and adopted by the Environmental Officers of the Dioceses of Yorkshire and the North East of England, aims to get church people writing to their Members of Parliament (MPs) and candidates for the 2015 British (if the United Kingdom still exists after the Scottish Independence Referendum) General Election, asking for them to confirm their Party’s and their own position on climate change. Here’s a suggested template for a letter that church congregations could sign together :-



Dear     MP,

We are really concerned about Climate Change. In particular, we are worried that unless the UK Government takes strong action now, future generations face a bleak future.

Please can you tell us what’s in your Party’s 2015 General Election Manifesto that will enable the UK to reach the target of at least an 80% reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 ?

We would like you to pass on our request to your Manifesto Planning Group. Please keep us informed on your Party’s position on this matter, so that we can decide how we will vote.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this critical issue, and we look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,


This pretty innocuous letter would be signed at church signing days – see their website (https://www.hftf.org.uk) for suggestions about various ways of doing this. People could also write their own individual letters at church group meetings. The best time for this would probably be Creationtide, running from 1st September 2014 to 4th or 10th October 2014, and Harvest 2014, but letter-writing is starting now, with a pilot scheme running in the Diocese of Sheffield, with Bishop Steven Croft.

The next stage of the campaign would be to call local public meetings in churches, where the MP would be invited to answer questions on Climate Change and their personal and Party’s policies. Because the meetings would be public, secular groups could be invited.

Michael Bayley rightly thinks that if MPs and candidates for election are quizzed on climate change that they will need to go back to their Parties to check what collective policy will be. Also, he said that if MPs make commitments at hustings meetings, because they are public meetings, they can be reported in the media, and the politicians can be held to account.

All of us discussing political aspects of climate change agreed that it appeared that the Conservative Party is under considerable pressure from its right wing to abandon environmental targets. Steve Smith of the Committee on Climate Change, although attending the meeting in a personal capacity, noted that a generally Conservative Christian voice demanding continued action on climate change would be very helpful.

It was noted that it would be good to get in touch with our newly-elected Members of the European Parliament after next week’s election, congratulate them on their appointments, and get their support for the European Union’s decision on decarbonisation by asking them what they’re going to do personally to advance European climate policy.

When asked about the effectiveness of letter-writing campaigns, Alasdair Roxburgh of Christian Aid said that about 20% of the people who they sent template letters to signed and returned them.

2. Churches and Churchgoers as Investors

A report was made of Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign.

The breakout group was keen to encourage positive engagement with the fossil fuel energy producing companies, to ask them to put themselves in a better position – such things could include producing renewable energy to replace fossil fuel energy production, or by engaging with the need to reduce energy waste. The bottom line would be to leave the fossil fuels in the ground.

The question was asked as to whether there was a call from the NGOs that fossil fuel companies should commit to CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage. Kate Allardyce referred us to the Bright Now report, and the box section titled “Could fossil fuel companies ever be considered ethical ?”, in which the call was made for fossil fuel companies to “invest in carbon capture and storage”.

I made a point in the feedback session to the whole group that I had been in two presentations given by one of the companies in the fossil fuel industry, in which they had announced their CCS project. Only a percentage of the carbon dioxide would be captured, and the project was only expected to run for ten years. I questioned whether the fossil fuel industry was committed to deploying CCS – most of the companies had been waiting for money from the UK Government before running their CCS projects. I said that the most useful thing in my view was to go to the next level – Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) – recycling the carbon – which would mean that less input fuels would be required in power generation.

3. Engaging with the media on climate

At lunch, before the working group sessions, I was speaking with Joe Ware, church and campaigns journalist, who used to work for a very rural newspaper, but says that working for something you believe in is much better. I agreed – if people stopped believing that they could only live with compromises, pretty soon the world would change for the better. He said journalists change jobs quite often. I said the MediaLens are pretty good at keeping track of who is where – just ask. He questioned why MediaLens criticise the “leftwing” liberal media. I said that peer review is probably the most effective in correcting deficits – some of the language that went unchallenged by editors was appalling. I said that editors were probably to blame for most of the climate change denier columns – for example, I asked, had he seen the The Times story by Ben Webster, that looked like a straight copy and paste from a Global Warming Policy Foundation press release ? I said the scientist at the centre of the faux scandal denied the GWPF’s claims on his position, and the publishing journal also denied the accusations of suppression. I said that The Guardian ran a piece saying the The Times story was not accurate. And then the Financial Times ran a piece saying the The Times story was not accurate. Ben Webster, the byline on the The Times piece, if he is a real person, really needs to know that all climate change stories need factchecking. Joe agreed that it wouldn’t have taken much to get this story straight, but he reckoned that the scandal probably sold more newspapers.

Anyway, in the feedback from the working group on media, I reminded everybody that Tony Juniper had asked in the 7th May 2014 debate with Christiana Figueres at St Paul’s Cathedral if anybody there knew the editors of the Daily Mail, and could they apply some pressure to get climate change stories straight ? Darrell Hannah asked shouldn’t there be more challenge to inaccurate climate change media articles ? I said that there are a number of people already working in this space : Carbon Brief, Skeptical Science and so on. There was some mention of Richard Black, former BBC correspondent and what he is up to these days.

There was a call to get senior Christian church people to make public statements about climate change. Notable recent articles, included one from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

4. Theology of Climate Change

There will be a meeting in July to try to pull together a brief theological discourse that links Creation Care to Climate Action. The theology of climate change “in a nutshell” according to Sarah Rowe of Christian Aid.

The key question is : is there “something that can captivate people” ? People can be turned off by science, data and graphs. But it possible to draw out discourse if the style is narrative – especially narrative from a personal perspective – each person’s own climate change story.

Michael Bayley of Hope for the Future said that sample tried-and-tested sermon was soon going to be available on their website.

5. Day of Prayer and Fasting

We heard back from Our Voices that more international networking has been done to join the dots of various efforts in preparation for the launch of a monthly call to prayer and fasting, which is now set to take place on 1st November 2014. The narrative of the original climate fast was outlined :-

https://twitter.com/hashtag/fastfortheclimate
https://twitter.com/FastForClimate
https://www.facebook.com/fastfortheclimate
https://fastfortheclimate.org/en/
https://fastfortheclimate.org/en/#tab2-tab
“When Typhoon Hai-yan had just devastated the Philippines in November last year, climate commissioner Yeb Saño was at the UN climate talks in Warsaw. His own family was caught up in the disaster that killed thousands and destroyed homes and livelihoods across the country. In a moving speech he said he would not eat until countries at the Warsaw conference delivered actions that would ‘stop the madness’ of the climate crisis. Hundreds of others from around the world chose to fast with him in solidarity. Despite this, the Warsaw meeting saw countries, like Japan, actually winding back their climate commitments, seemingly in denial that all countries will need to commit and contribute to the comprehensive, global climate action plan which is due in Paris in 2015. The Fast For The Climate has grown into global movement with participation of youth groups, environmental groups and faith-based groups, who all want urgent action on climate change by governments this year.”

I asked Jean Leston currently of WWF (in the future, some of her time will be spent with GreenPilgrimage.net) if she could find me a contact at Earth Hour that could bring that campaign’s endorsement. Earth Hour is a fast from energy, celebrated or enacted every Spring. Fasting from fossil fuels could be entirely parallel to a fast from food.

Christian Aid are going ahead with a weekend of prayer and action called “Hunger for Justice” on 18th – 19th October 2014. MPs are to be invited to take part. Clearly this could be seen as a lead-in to the 1st November event.

Spotlight on faith diversity

Everyone is invited to contact parallel faith organisations and invite them into the Faith for the Climate process.

Gopal Patel of The Bhumi Project at The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies was present today. Next time we hope to have representatives from other major faith groups.

Not only, but also

Talking with Ellen Teague over lunch about Christiana Figueres’ address at St Paul’s Cathedral and the ensuing debate, she expressed disappointment that a question about re-configuring the economic consensus of capitalism was responded to with a curt negative from Tony Juniper. I said that challenges to capitalism are usually met with stony faces, because it’s such an intractable question, and anyway, we don’t want to be dismissed as Marxists out of hand if we raise problems with the current economic configuration. I said that there are three things emerging that will make a big difference to the current economic state of play :-

a. Globalisation has hit a brick wall
The limits of cheap labour have perhaps been reached – so it no longer makes sense to outsource every manufacturing unit to the Far East. Countries like the United States of America, and in Europe, are trying to bring industry home. If trade can no longer make everything cheaper, then the WTO policy of globalisation is dead. Globalisation has been a central prop for capitalism.

b. Decades of poor levels of energy investment
Many parts of the energy system in many regions have suffered from poor levels of investment, and now that the energy sector needs to be re-vitalised, energy companies are not necessarily in a position to throw capital at the problem. This means that states are going to have to put public money into reviving the energy sector – which brings energy back from the free and private market to the publicly-owned space. Since the economy is highly dependent on energy systems, this will inevitably have an effect on the state of economic play.

c. Renewable energy floats many boats
In fact, if the renewal in energy is in renewables, these have been shown to spread bounty far and wide – more jobs are created in Renewable Energy than in fossil fuels for example. Fossil fuels have been taken out of the ground virtually for free, and this has led to strong profits for those who have cornered this advantage, and bolstered capitalist development. However, Renewable Energy technologies demand a different economic model, with strong public investment at the beginning to compensate for the free coal and oil and gas coming out the ground at the moment. Renewable Energy deployment is bound to alter the face of capitalism – decentralising wealth creation, and having large public finance buy-in. Ownership of the means of production is also going to be decentralised – everybody can own solar panels on their roof – if they have a roof – even if they are renting. Or they can put personal savings into farm-scale photovoltaics, or urban solar roof projects.

Dates

As usual, there is a plethora of NGO events taking place. Some key dates will include Ban Ki-Moon’s Summit in New York in September 2014, at which there will be some faith organisation input.

In the UK, governance will not stop with Paris 2015. The Committee on Climate Change will produce their report on the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget by the end of 2015. And by mid-2016, the UK will have made a decision on its decarbonisation target. As usual, the interplay between UK policy and European Community policy is important.

4 replies on “Faith for the Climate”

Good summary of today’s meeting which yet again was full of energy in the room. Glad to see plans are progressing well across the different interest groups.

Just to let people know that I’m stepping down from WWF in July in order to go freelance so that I can spend more time on faith and environment work. Working for the Green Pilgrimage Network is indeed one of my potential new involvements but hopefully there will be others too!

And, yes, I will get you that Earth Hour contact name!

Jean Leston

Jo,

Brilliant job. One amendment I would like is in the paragraph after the letter where it says “… Church signing days” to insert “see their website (www.hftf.org.uk) for suggestions about various ways of doing this.”

In the last sentence of the same paragraph a slight re-ordering – “The best time for would probably be Creationtide, running from 1st September 2014 to 4th or 10th October 2014, and Harvest 2014.”

Best wishes, Michael

Well done Jo. Very interesting. I await further news.
Best wishes
Gwen

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