Churches disappointed over weak commitment to environment
Published 23 June 2012
The Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and Baptist Union of Great Britain say the pledges from world leaders at Rio+20 on the environment are “inadequate”.
The latest round of UN talks on sustainability concluded on Friday with an agreement from government representatives and heads of state to create a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will form the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, due to expire in 2015.
However, Church leaders said that the commitment expressed in the summit document, “The Future We Want”, largely repeated previous climate pledges rather than moving forward.
“Whilst we’re pleased that international leaders recognise the plight of the planet and the lives of many living in poverty, we are disappointed in the lack of clear action coming out of Rio+20,” said the Rev Roberta Rominger, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church.
“We welcome the $175bn fund pledge to boost sustainable transport in developing economies,” she continued. “However, developed nations must now find innovative ways to resource a Green Fund to help developing countries create low carbon economies.
“We also regret that the summit has declined to identify a timescale or plan of action for the phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuels.”
The Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said it was up to churches to call on governments to live more sustainably and set the example in reducing carbon footprints.
Methodist Youth President, Sam Taylor, was disappointed with the lack of a clear timeline.
“Without targets and sates, it’s just words on paper. Will we be in the same position in another twenty years?” he said.
“The lives of future generations will be affected if we fail to act now on climate change.
“The final communiqué does not set out a path towards the future we want. We can and must do more.”
Alison Doig, Christian Aid’s senior adviser on sustainable development, said there had been a “stunning lack of urgency” at Rio+20.
“The fires of environmental destruction and human suffering are raging across the world but in Rio the most powerful leaders showed no hurry to put them out,” she said.
“Instead, they have pursued narrow self-interest, technical bargaining and energetic spin, in the hope of persuading the public that they have worked wonders.
“We are disappointed that the world's most powerful countries have given so little momentum to sustainable development but we remain determined to build on what Rio+20 has given us - and to inspire others to join us.”
However, she commended the UK for its commitment to help lead international work on the new Sustainable Development Goals.
She said: “The SDGs could help make global food production more sustainable and ensure that many millions more people can enjoy clean water and sustainable, modern energy. But this will only happen if citizens keep up the pressure as work to shape the goals continues.”
Ms Doig also welcomed announcements from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that major UK companies will have to report on their greenhouse gas emissions and that support will be given to more than six million smallholder farmers in developing countries to help counter the negative impact of climate change.
“The UK has also stood up in Rio as a champion of corporate sustainability reporting, which could help make companies across the world accountable for their impacts on people and the planet,” she said.
“Mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions will give them a major incentive to clean up their acts. That, in turn, will be good news for people living in poverty across the world, who are first and worst affected by the changing climate.
“Additional help for smallholder farmers, many of whom are already experiencing the impact of climate change, is also welcome.”
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