This year the biodiversity crisis will come further to the fore. Andy Atkins, Chief Executive of A Rocha UK explains why, and how we can respond effectively.
If last year was the year of climate in the UK, in terms of public awareness of big environmental issues, 2022 is likely to be the ‘year of nature’. It’s not that climate change has gone away or been sorted. Far from it. We must keep pressing for faster government and business action on climate change, of course. But its twin crisis – biodiversity loss – is likely to get a high profile in 2022. So, what will bring it up the agenda, and how can we Christians who care about God’s creation harness this to drive effective action?
A big and early international nature ‘moment’ will be ‘COP15’ – the next meeting of the parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. It will meet in Kunming, China, for two weeks in late April and early May and is tasked with setting new international goals to avoid mass extinction of species. Though far from the UK, we can still expect the event to catapult nature to the top of the news agenda, as scientific bodies and international nature conservation charities release their latest findings and proposals in advance of the conference.
Closer to home, it will be the first year of the new Environment Act, passed by Parliament last November. Environmental charities will be looking to the government for rapid implementation of its promises. They will also be alert to any attempts to use its loopholes to carry on ‘business as usual’ which has been so damaging to our environment in the last fifty years. The UK is one of the most nature-poor countries in Europe. For many conservationists the Environment Act is our last best chance to turn around this continuing decline before it really is too late for dozens of species.
Within the Churches too, nature will come up the agenda. As more denominations commit to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions, they are urgently looking at how to do this. There is no substitute for getting off fossil fuels fast, improving energy efficiency in church buildings etc. But there is also increasing awareness that land can play a role too – and the Church Commissioners, for example, own a large portfolio of land. Where there is land, there is potential habitat for wildlife of course. Whether the land is a highly mechanised farm, a city housing estate or a postcard-pretty country churchyard, the way it is managed can help absorb greenhouse emissions and provide a home for nature, or it can do the reverse.
In tackling climate change the churches will not be able to avoid nature.
These are just three reasons we can expect to hear a lot more about nature in 2022. History suggests, however, that ‘issue profile’ does not necessarily lead to ‘issue solutions’. It takes public action and pressure on governments to convert the temporary noise to lasting action. So, 2022 would be a very good year to get our local church community paying more attention to nature as part of Eco Church or a similar scheme. In June we can join with churches nationally in the Churches Count on Nature initiative, recording wildlife in our churchyards. And we can resolve to speak up more often in defence of voiceless nature via, for example, A Rocha UK’s Wild Christian community: the free bulletin contains regular news on relevant campaigns and how to participate. You can sign up here.
Written by Andy Atkins, Chief Executive for our January 2022 eNews.
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