Over 600 Australians of faith, mostly Christians, have hand-written letters to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling on him to do more about climate change.
The letters were collected and sent to the PM this week by multi-faith advocacy group Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).
Letter writers petitioned the Morrison Government to submit higher emissions reduction targets ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12 this year.
They also urged the government to re-start contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which was established to help developing countries fight climate change. Australia stopped contributing to the fund in 2018.
In addition, the letter writers said the government must abandon the idea of a ‘gas-led recovery’, and instead create jobs in low-carbon industries.
“I wrote to a PM … as a fellow man of faith and Pentecostal Christian, to encourage him to act on his faith in caring for God’s planet.” – Rob Buckingham
One of the letter writers, Pentecostal pastor at Bayside Church in Melbourne Rob Buckingham, appealed to the Prime Minister as “a man of faith” to take further action to stop climate pollution.
“It’s something that I feel very, very strongly about and that resonates very much from my Christian faith,” Buckingham told Eternity. “I think that our response as a country to the environment and to climate change is inadequate. And so I wrote to a PM, respectfully, appealing to him as a fellow man of faith and Pentecostal Christian, to encourage him to act on his faith in caring for God’s planet.”
In his letter, Buckingham identified two specific actions he would like the government to take. The first is to “urgently wind back our coal and gas exports and scale up our use of renewables.” Buckingham described it as Australia’s “moral responsibility” to help communities currently dependent on coal and gas to diversify their local economies.
“The world is already starting to wean itself off oil and coal, for example,” he told Eternity. “For people in regional areas in Australia where the town is basically a coal mining town or it’s an oil refinery, we’ve got to understand that those jobs are already in decline … These communities will end up being ghost towns if they remain reliant on coal, oil and gas.”
Compassion, Buckingham stressed, needs to be the key driving force in switching to renewable energies.
“Not just compassion in caring for the environment, as important as that is,” he clarified, “but also compassion for people who are currently employed because of coal, gas or oil. We need to help those communities to transition [to other industries] and not abandon them to an uncertain future.”
The second recommendation Buckingham made in his letter to the PM is to cut Australia’s carbon emissions by “at least two-thirds” in the next decade in order to keep global warming to under 2°C.
“It’s important to have really strong goals in place. But more than that, we have got to have a plan in place to achieve those goals,” he said.
“‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ … Right now there are people all around planet earth who are impacted by climate change like never before.” – Rob Buckingham
Buckingham encouraged other Christians to take action about climate change, saying, “We have a God-given responsibility to look after planet earth … that is based in Scripture.
“‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ – James calls it ‘the royal law of Scripture’. Paul said that this summarises the Hebrew scriptures. And our neighbour is anyone that we come across who is in need. Right now there are people all around planet earth who are impacted by climate change like never before.
“We are seeing unprecedented fires all across the globe and extreme heat. I read on BBC News yesterday that a new study shows the number of days that are 50 degrees and over has doubled between 1980 and last year, so in the last 40 years …
“So if we love our neighbour as ourselves, this has to grip us,” Buckingham concludes. “If we genuinely care compassionately for people, then I think it’s important that we get engaged in this issue.”
Another letter writer, Meredith Williams, Minister of Wentworthville Uniting Church in western Sydney, also pointed to the impact of climate change in her own backyard and across Australia.
“People in Western Sydney are very vulnerable to heatwaves, especially those living in poverty. More generally, Australians are very vulnerable to droughts, fires and floods and climate change will make these much worse for our children and grandchildren. Our governments are failing in their primary duty to keep people safe,” she said.
Following the delivery of these letters, the ARRCC says it plans to intensify pressure on the government to take stronger climate policies to the UN’s Climate Change Conference. The ARRCC is planning a global ‘Faiths 4 Climate Justice Day of Action’ on October 17-18, two weeks before the Glasgow summit. The organisation says it expects “hundreds of Australian faith communities” to participate in the two days of action, by “sounding a climate alarm” outside their place of worship and outside their local MP’s office.