On Friday 21 April 1,400 representatives and supporters of Christian charities, and other groups (including Christian Climate Action, A Rocha UK, Christian Aid and Tearfund) gathered for worship and prayer at a central London church with a simple message: We have no faith in fossil fuels. They then processed to Parliament Square pausing at Shell’s headquarters, where the Rt Rev John Sentamu, former Archbishop of York, delivered a joint letter calling on the oil giant to turn away from fossil fuels.
The service and march was significant for the singular and collaborative focus on ending fossil fuel exploration. Charities are being expected to cover ever more needs, nationally and internationally, at the same time as their own budgets being threatened by the cost of living crisis. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the largest body of independent scientists ever gathered, is clear that the single biggest cause of climate change is burning fossil fuels. Last week’s event highlights just how threatening the charities now see climate change to the achievement of their core mission.
The 2015 Paris Agreement committed nations to keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees celsius and as close to 1.5 as possible. To achieve this, the IPCC called for at least a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and the International Energy Agency said there should be no new fossil fuel development after 2021. Currently, however, the world is on a trajectory for a catastrophic 2.4 degree temperature rise by the end of the century. Yet in the UK our government recently issued a whole new round of oil and gas exploration licences and permission for a new coal mine.
So, No Faith in Fossil Fuels was also a significant act of Christian witness. As the crowd entered Parliament Square they sang the hymn Amazing Grace in praise of our Creator God, a God of love and justice. At heart, the collective call is for responsible leadership, for the Westminster government to turn from a path that is profoundly cruel and unjust to current and future generations and to our natural world.
Evidence of accelerating climate disruption is now a regular occurrence. Last year saw the UK hit by the hottest temperatures we had ever experienced. People and wildlife died from it. This week, scientists reported ocean temperatures have hit a new high, rising even faster than predicted by climate models, with severe implications for sea life and the speed of sea level rise.
That is why Christian charities, with an obligation to spend their supporters’ money to protect the environment or to help the poor and vulnerable, are increasingly feeling they have no choice but to speak up. Continuing fossil fuel extraction not only undermines the achievement of their charitable objectives, it is imperilling all of God’s creation.
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