Churches' climate commitments ahead of COP 26
A coalition of Christian churches and charities has called on churches to hold a ‘Climate Sunday’ and commit to effective action themselves before COP 26, the critical climate summit in November
The call from the Climate Sunday Initiative came on Friday 23 July, which marked exactly 100 days to go until the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, also known as COP26, which the UK government will host and chair in Glasgow.
The Climate Sunday initiative is the broadest-based church response to the climate crisis in the UK in the run-up to COP26.
Participating churches are asked to do three things:
hold a climate-focused service to explore the science and theology around addressing human-caused climate disruption;
commit to taking ongoing practical action themselves,
and sign a joint call for the government to act - the Time is Now Declaration.
The Climate Sunday website contains a toolbox of free resources, and enables churches to register their commitment. Typically, churches are committing to progress through a church greening scheme - the relevant scheme for Baptist churches is A Rocha's Eco Church programme.
The collective action and commitments from local churches across Great Britain & Ireland will be presented to the UK Government at a Nations Climate Sunday Service in Glasgow on Sunday 5 September 2021.
So far more than 1,500 churches across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland are taking part and hundreds more, including several cathedrals, are planning to do so.
The coalition says this widespread take up of the initiative across diverse church traditions indicates ‘a growing commitment by churches to act on climate change, and to demand that the government act too.’
The Climate Sunday Initiative wants to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government bring out domestic policies before the international conference, to get the UK back on track with its own emissions targets. It is also calling on the government, in its role as chair of COP26, to seek faster and deeper global emissions cuts and the delivery of long-promised finance to help poorer countries adapt to the climate disruption which they are already experiencing.
It explains there is deep concern among climate specialists within the churches and charities that the UK government is undermining its influence to deliver a successful COP26 outcome by failing to implement policies to achieve the UK’s own emissions targets and by slashing the UK’s overseas aid budget, so needs to take rapid action before COP to restore its own credibility as a ‘climate leader’.
Andy Atkins, Chair of the Climate Sunday Coalition and CEO coalition member A Rocha UK, a Christian nature conservation charity, said, ‘The climate crisis is accelerating alarmingly; but we have the unique opportunity in rich countries to accelerate the solutions by directing Covid recovery funds towards building a new, green economy. At present the government is in danger of ‘building back worse’.
‘So, there has never been a more crucial time for UK churches to come together to pray, act locally and speak up nationally on the climate crisis and on the need to ‘build back greener.’
The Climate Sunday initiative, organised by the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)’s Environmental Issues Network (EIN), is the UK’s largest joint project planned by UK Churches on Climate Change.
It has formal backing from the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Joint Public Issues Team, as well as CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, The Salvation Army, A Rocha UK, Operation Noah, Climate Stewards, Eco-Congregation Scotland, Eco-Congregation Ireland, Green Christian, the Church of England, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Wales, the United Reformed Church, The Church of Scotland, Churches together in Wales, the Union of Welsh Independents, The Church in Wales, World Vision, The John Ray Initiative, USPG, The United Reformed Church, The Salvation Army, Joint Public Issues Team, CTBI, Christian Concern for One World, Church of Ireland, Young Christian Climate Network, Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales.