For the next 40 days, Christians will be giving up some of their favourite things for the season of Lent, traditionally a time of fasting, repentance and reflection in the run-up to Easter.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, and the head of anti-poverty movement Micah Challenge International, Joel Edwards, are challenging Christians to go beyond the usual popular choices of chocolate and alcohol, and take steps to reduce their carbon footprint instead.
The Carbon Fast suggests simple energy saving actions for each day during Lent, including becoming a part-time vegetarian and giving up iPods, computers and mobile phones.
Bishop Chartres said the daily actions were an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God in a practical way while reducing carbon emissions.
"It's the poorest people in developing countries, who have done the least to cause climate change, being hit hardest by its devastating consequences. It is all of our responsibility to help reverse this injustice,” he said.
Tearfund, a Micah Challenge partner, said it was aware of the recent resurgence in scepticism about climate change, but insisted that that global warming was already a “harsh reality” for millions of people.
Rev Edwards said: "We have never had such an unprecedented level of attention to climate change and we have never been called upon to act with such urgency.
“Climate change is everybody's problem and everybody's solution. For millions of the poorest people in the world climate change is not a matter of debate, it’s a matter of livelihood, life and death.”
The Carbon Fast, now in its fourth year, is the brainchild of the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones. He encouraged people to “fast for justice” this Lent, saying it could help people understand how they could reduce their impact on the world by making simple changes.
“There is no climate justice for the poor,” he said.
Other Church of England bishops supporting the Carbon Fast include the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, who admitted changing his lifestyle to reduce his carbon emissions would involve some “painful” personal sacrifices.
He said, “We need to make radical changes to our privileged western lifestyles for the sake of the rest of the world. It’s the poorest people who suffer most from our unrestrained carbon consumption.”
The Carbon Fast is endorsed by Sir John Houghton, former Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office, who said people had to take responsibility for climate change on an individual, church and community level.
Churchgoer Chris Thompson, from Stoke on Trent, said taking part in the Carbon Fast last year had helped him to make long-term changes.
He said: “The climate change debate is really confusing – especially when the experts can’t agree. In the face of such a huge issue I felt helpless, but the 2009 Carbon Fast was enormously empowering and enabled me to discover new ways in which I could reduce my impact on the environment.
“Following the daily actions helped me not just during Lent but in making long-term lifestyle changes.”
On the web: www.tearfund.org/carbonfast