Christians welcome Government commitment to 'net zero' by 2050

(Photo: Unsplash/Zbynek Burival)

Church leaders and Christian environmental campaigners have welcomed the Government's new target to achieve 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050. 

The ambitious commitment was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May this week, who said there was a "moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than what we inherited".

The Church of England's lead bishop on the environment, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, said the UK was "setting an example" to the rest of the world with its commitment to addressing the "global climate emergency".

However, he said the target needed to be followed by action. 

"But commitment alone is meaningless unless it is backed up by relentless action, which must remain our priority in the coming decades," he said. 

"Christians and people of all faiths have long called for action on climate change both to preserve the natural world on which we all rely, and to protect God's creation for generations to come.

"Climate change affects us all, but the world's poorest are most vulnerable to extreme weather events and the least able to cope with the impact.

"It is imperative for us as Christians to press for action to deal with these threats.

"Ours is the first generation to know the full scale of the risks posed by climate change and could be the last able to do anything meaningful about it.

"That is why committing to end our contribution to climate change here in the UK is so important."

Dr Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund, said the Government's commitment was "very good news for the UK", as well as people in other parts of the world who are "already facing the catastrophic impacts of climate change", but she said more could be done to bring carbon emissions down sooner. 

"Reaching net zero is vital to end the UK's contribution to climate change and also inspire other nations to do the same. We want to limit the devastating impact climate change is having on the world's poorest people," she said. 

"However, we firmly believe the UK can go even further and faster reaching net zero well before 2050. New technologies and reducing costs have shown this.

"Many people around the world are already living with the devastating impacts of our climate emergency and we need to take every action we can.

"It's essential other major economies deliver on net zero commitments too. Promises were made back in 2015 under the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to 1.5C. We have a collective responsibility to achieve net zero globally."

Christian Aid's Global Climate Lead, Dr Alison Doig, said the announcement was a "historic day" but warned that it "does not go far enough". 

"The world is facing a climate emergency and the only way we will solve it is by countries going net zero," she said. 

She called on Parliament to push the Government towards reaching its target by 2045, five years sooner. 

"Christian Aid firmly believes 2045 is the latest point at which we can safely reach net zero greenhouse-gas emissions," she said.

"The poorest people on the front lines of climate breakdown cannot wait while we drag our heels - despite being least to blame, they are suffering the consequences now.

"As well as a long term target we need to ensure that we move right away to a greener and fairer economic model."

This would mean, she said, ending the use of fossil fuels, including oil and gas, while promoting energy efficiency, renewables and the "under-addressed" emissions coming from transport and industry.

"We need real investment and cross-government action to make that a reality," she said, adding, "Global emissions continue to rise. Currently we're trying to tackle a house fire by dousing it with petrol. Only when we stop pumping out greenhouse gas emissions can we start to bring the fire under control."