February saw the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) release its most sobering report to date amidst the horror and chaos of Russia invading Ukraine, their peaceful, democratic neighbour.
The IPCC’s report revealed that both the planet and people “are getting clobbered by climate change”. António Guterres, Secretary-General to the UN also described the report as “an atlas of human suffering” and condemned the “criminal” abdication of leadership, leading to the “arson of our only home”. This, as well as the stranglehold Russia has on the supply of oil and gas to much of Europe, has highlighted the importance and urgency of phasing out fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine is being used by those opposed to green energy as an opportunity to advocate for more oil and gas, even fracking in the UK. This could be catastrophic if it further delays adequate government action on, and investment in, a wholescale shift to renewables.
The report showed that climate change is accelerating faster than ever. The most climate vulnerable nations face severe consequences in terms of acute food insecurity and reduced water security through extreme heat, flooding, drought, wildfire and sea level rise. An estimated 40% of the world’s population are now “highly vulnerable” to climate and the degradation and destruction of ecosystems has increased that vulnerability, and impacted the capacity of ecosystems and societies to adapt to climate change. Tragically, we now know that many of the impacts of climate change are already irreversible. This is what happens when leaders respond to the climate emergency with delay and inaction.
Now is not the time to abandon hope.
The report also shows that there is still a brief window to take action to keep temperatures under 1.5C. As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said, “Hope is not the guarantee of a better future: it’s the knowledge that our actions matter. And today, they matter more than ever”. We can still adapt our societies, economies and way of life to be more resilient to this threat if the UK government accelerates investment in renewable energy, and increases the energy efficiency of homes by swapping gas for heat pumps, thereby combating climate change, cutting energy bills and reducing dependence on gas, wherever it comes from.
We are living through unprecedented times. We need the sort of leadership which looks to a vision of the future in which the needs of the most vulnerable in our society are put at the centre of how we plan. A leadership that works in partnership with nature to harness the huge capacity of wind, solar and hydro power. There is so much to be gained when we dare to imagine a better and more just future for people and the planet, and people of faith can have a crucial role to play in advocating for this vision.
The report concluded: ‘The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.’ It’s important to remember that the IPCC is an intergovernmental group of delegates who commission scientists to write these reports, meaning that governments from across the world, including the UK, have signed off on this wording. It’s time to hold them accountable, and we believe that the church has a key role to play in this.
That’s why A Rocha UK recently co-sponsored a letter to PM Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, challenging them to show leadership in the approach to the recent Spring statement and the forthcoming Energy Independence Plan by phasing out fossil fuels and supporting those most heavily impacted by the energy crisis.
More than 500 local and national church leaders have now signed it. You can view the letter here.