Church leaders call for action on sustainable development

As government representatives and heads of state meet in Rio, church leaders are looking for action on sustainable development to protect the Earth for future generations.

The Rio+20 conference is the latest round of UN talks aimed at moving countries towards a "green economy" and new agreements that will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015.

In a statement, the Church of England's diocesan environment officers (DEOs) warned of a time of "grave challenge" for the world.

They hit out at the "greed" that is "driving untold harm to the Earth's resource base" as they recalled the huge pressures on the planet from climate change, population growth and "unsustainable" economic growth.

"We cannot sustain current aspirations to infinite economic gain on a finite planet," the statement read.

“It is clear that vulnerable communities are already experiencing displacement and death and future generations will be facing immense challenges.

"It is vital that world leaders at Rio take action now if the growing threats to the planet’s ecology are to be halted and reversed and we move towards a more environmentally sustainable society.”

The officers also spoke of the need for the church to re-engage with God's creation and live "more lightly" on the Earth.

They recommended that the church develop "partnerships of action" with others to address the challenges.

"Our biblical heritage pushes us towards radical action to care about the whole created world and to share more equitably the resources God offers to all life," they said.

The statement follows a video message to the Rio+20 conference from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in which he urges leaders to think about the kind of world they want to leave to their children.

David Shreeve, the Church of England’s national environment adviser said: “Our DEOs are at the front line putting the Church of England’s environmental commitments into action. With the encouragement of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Rio message, DEO’s are looking to their churches and dioceses to support their role in developing and supporting local awareness and action.”