Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Christians Among those Declaring Climate Emergencies

All around the world governments and organizations including Christian communities are declaring climate emergencies. Thus far we have seen such declarations in more than 700 jurisdictions covering almost 150 million citizens. The declaration of a climate emergency is meant to mobilize immediate action as it draws attention to the fact that we are not doing what we must to avert a climate catastrophe. There are dozens of action groups that support the declaration of a climate emergency and the student strikes and organizations like the Extinction Rebellion have helped to take this movement mainstream.

Climate declaration motions share a common focus on raising awareness related to the urgent need and planning to achieve carbon-neutrality. These plans are about ways of minimizing climate impacts and they can include transitioning to renewable energy, enhanced efficiency, improving public transit and promoting local food production. For more information on climate emergencies click here.

National governments and Christian leaderships are declaring climate emergencies. Even schools like the Chase School in Malvern, UK has made such a declaration.

Declarations in Scotland, Whales and Ireland as well as in hundreds of city councils including London encouraged members of parliament to support a national motion in the United Kingdom. As explained by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: "Are we content to hand down a broken planet to our children? That is the question members must ask themselves today. We have the chance to act before it’s too late. It’s a chance that won’t be available to succeeding generations. It is our historic duty to take it." This is a question we all must answer.

The UK's declaration of a climate emergency was followed by legislation mandating zero emissions. The Canadian House of Commons has also declared a climate emergency. Despite national governments that flout the facts, grassroots pressure is also building in Australia and the United States. In 2017 Hoboken New Jersey became the first US city, and Montgomery County, Maryland became the first US county, to declare climate emergencies and commit to rapid elimination climate change causing emissions. Similar motions were passed in Richmond, California followed Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oakland did the same.  On June 26th the New York City Council declared a climate emergency.

In August 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a climate emergency resolution which is a reassertion of a 2016 DNC platform amendment, calling for climate mobilization. The resolution expresses "the sense of the DNC that climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security".

In Australia with a total of 17 local governments representing more than a million people having made formal declarations. Darebin City was the first to declare a climate emergency and they were followed by Moreland and Ballarat.

In January 2019, Vancouver became the first Canadian city to declare a climate emergency followed shortly thereafter by Halifax. In March Kingston became the first city in Ontario to make such a declaration. In April city councilors in Ottawa voted overwhelmingly in favor of declaring a climate emergency and the Guelph city council is about to vote on a similar motion.

In Quebec more than 300 municipalities have endorsed a Déclaration d’Urgence Climatique – a climate emergency declaration, representing more than 70 per cent of the Quebec population. This includes major cities like Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières.

In June the Canadian House of Commons passed a Climate Emergency motion with a vote of 186 to 63. In addition to these declarations in the English-speaking world, the German speaking city of Basel was the first to officially declare a climate emergency. Other German speaking cities may also soon declare climate emergencies (Zurich, Constance, Berlin, Leipzig, Kiel, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Erlangen).

Faith communities are also declaring climate emergencies. At the 17th session of the Anglican Consultative Council in April a resolution was passed that recognized the scale of the global climate emergency and encouraged all Anglican churches to live out the fifth Mark of Mission – ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’” Pressure is mounting on the Church of England to declare a climate emergency.

On June 14th the leader of the Catholic Church declared a climate emergency.  Pope Francis warned, "we must take action accordingly" adding the failure to act to reduce greenhouse gases would be "a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations". For those sitting on the sidelines the pontiff offered the following exhortation: "We do not have the luxury of waiting for others to step forward, or of prioritizing short-term economic benefits."

In June, Environmental Advisor for the Council of Progressive Rabbis in Australia, Rabbi Keren-Black said the world is facing a climate emergency. "We blow the horn to awake slumbers from their sleep and to sound the alarm, so we blow it to sound the alarm for the climate emergency, for the sake of the world, for the sake of generations to come," he said, adding "Judaism believes that we have a responsibility to be caretakers for God's world, and we're not doing a very good job of it at the moment".

On July 4th the Methodist Church is the latest faith organization to recognize that we are facing a climate emergency and the Methodist Conference has called on the UK to expedite their timetable to achieve net zero emissions. The Methodist Church has been engaged in political lobbying including participation in the #TheTimeIsNow Climate Coalition. They are engaged with investment groups around the issue of reducing carbon footprints.

The Methodist Church launched Eco Circuits and Eco Districts in partnership with A Rocha, a Christian organization engaging communities in nature conservation. The first Methodist Church to received a Gold Eco Church Award in June. The Methodist Church is also addressed the problem of single use plastics, leading through example and urging its members and churches to reduce plastic pollution.

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