Christians take their place in a multi-faith call for bold climate action – by 2030, not 2050

Over 110 places of worship across Australia are ringing their bells, displaying banners or holding events today as part of a global faith day of action. They are urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take much stronger emissions reduction targets for the year 2030 to the COP26 United Nations climate summit in Glasgow (COP26).

Across the country, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples are displaying banners calling on the PM to take “Bold climate action by 2030, starting now” and “Protect creation.”

People of faith at Para Hills Uniting Church, Adelaide, Australia, gather to call for bold climate action.

The 2030 focus of their call is a bold ask from a government that is currently working on gaining its coalition’s agreement for a target of net zero emissions by 2050. Having only received the government’s proposed climate and energy policy today, with the Cabinet first seeing it on Thursday, the coalition parties are to meet today and then meet together in a combined party room next week.

It was only on Friday that Prime Minister Scott Morrison finally confirmed he would attend COP26 in a fortnight – after weeks of increasing, widespread pressure that included comments from the British royal family and a Times Square billboard mocking Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce has repeatedly refused to say whether it is possible to get his party to agree on a net zero emissions plan. Instead, he has said his party will be analysing the document “forensically” to ensure it details a plan to protect regional economies.

The plan faces some stiff opposition inside the party, as evidenced this week. On Tuesday afternoon, Nationals senator from Queensland Matt Canavan tweeted that net zero would mean “higher energy prices for all”. On Wednesday, Nationals senator from Queensland Bridget McKenzie told ABC Radio National “There is no deal unless it’s right for the regions.”

This, in turn, led to a frustrated mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest accused the Nationals of scaremongering to chase votes. But now, with COP26 drawing near, there are concerns that if Australia continues to resist taking its place in global efforts to address climate change, it will suffer various financial repercussions.

“I appeal to the Prime Minister as a man of faith and ask him to carefully consider his government’s responsibility to make sure the earth’s environment is protected for the generations to come.” – Pastor Rob Buckingham

Yet while the coalition parties attempt to hammer out a 2050 plan, faith communities have united across religions to say that it is what the country does in the two decades prior – before 2030 – that really matters.

Pentecostal Pastor Rob Buckingham of Bayside Church in Melbourne said, “I appeal to the Prime Minister as a man of faith and ask him to carefully consider his government’s responsibility to make sure the earth’s environment is protected for the generations to come.”

People of Faith at St Mary’s in Exile, Brisbane, Australia, stand with their Faiths4Climate Banner

“We share the concerns people have for regional communities but the world moving away from fossil fuels. It is actually more compassionate to assist these communities to diversify their local economies. Otherwise, we abandon them to an uncertain and bleak future. Especially so because people in the regions are also bearing the brunt of fires, floods and droughts made worse by climate change.”

“Much is being made of net zero by 2050,” said Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, spokesperson for the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors.

“But the real question is what can be achieved by 2030. The latest climate science shows we are running out of time to protect our common home. We urge the Prime Minister to adopt a meaningful plan to match the ambition of other nations like the US, UK and EU, and to start implementing those plans immediately.”

“Australia should also fulfil its promises under the Paris Accord to contribute to the Green Climate Fund. It’s only fair that, as a wealthy country that has profited from exporting fossil fuels, we should be contributing to adaptation finance for climate-impacted countries.”

Venerable Sujato, a Buddhist monk and the Director of Sutta Central, said, “Our faith traditions all teach that the ethical path is one which is also ultimately life-giving. Mr Morrison has a choice. He takes Australia on a life-giving path of helping conserve the Earth’s climate stability, which also happens to hold the promise of a cleaner, more jobs-rich future. Or he continues down this death-dealing path which protects, not life, but particular sectors which stand to gain by holding back progress.”

Today’s action in Australia is coordinated by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC). It is part of a broader movement by GreenFaith International, with similar actions in hundreds of locations worldwide taking place this weekend.

ARRCC President, Thea Ormerod, said, “Given the need for recovery spending from the pandemic, the government must not simply replace fossil fuels with fossil fuels. We join with Australian youth who are crying out for the dishonest ‘gas-fired recovery’ to be replaced by public investment in our vast renewable energy potential.”