Churches commit to 'leading by example' on climate change

Bishop Graham Usher (l) with Bishop Olivia Graham (r)(Photo: A Rocha UK)

Thousands of churches have re-committed to getting their own house in order while holding the government to account on climate change.

At least 2,200 churches held a Climate Sunday over the weekend as the COP26 summit got underway in Glasgow, Scotland, Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK said. 

As part of Climate Sunday, churches from many different backgrounds and traditions pledged to continue their own action on climate change in the future. 

In the run-up to COP26, over 700 church leaders signed the Time is Now Declaration calling for "a green energy revolution", even deeper global emissions cuts, and climate adaptation finance for poorer countries.

A Rocha CEO Andy Atkins said churches had an important role to play in holding the government to account on its commitments.

He said he was encouraged by the level of involvement in climate action by churches.

"This surge in churches' action - across the UK, across the traditions, from small chapels to cathedrals - demonstrates that local Christian communities are increasingly prepared to take bold action to address their own contribution to climate change," he said.

"They now expect the UK government to lead boldly at COP26, and to get the UK's house in order soon after, whatever other nations will or won't commit to.

"In the critical decade ahead, UK churches will be a major national community holding government to account on its climate responsibilities." 

A Rocha UK was one of the Christian groups to be involved in a Climate Sunday event at COP26 that was also joined by the Church of England's lead bishop for the environment, Graham Usher, and Baptist Union of Wales General Secretary, the Rev Judith Morris.

Rev Morris said she wanted to see world leaders commit to "uncompromising targets" on climate change.

"We give thanks for the commitments made by churches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we pray that they will be honoured and multiplied extensively throughout the UK as we play our part in caring for creation," she said.

"We ask God's rich blessing on these critical COP26 meetings and pray that government leaders will be fearless in setting brave, bold and uncompromising targets to slow down climate change thereby ensuring a future for our planet and for our brothers and sisters of tomorrow."

The chair of Eco-Congregation in Scotland, Richard Murray, and in Ireland, the Rev Andrew Orr, were also involved in the event.

Murray said the challenge of the day was "tackling the climate emergency with urgency" while also "leading by example in our churches".

"Christians across the nations are increasingly motivated and supported to care and act for God's creation," he said.

"We all share this unique opportunity for transformational change, taking practical steps to change our own behaviour and calling on leaders at COP26 to agree global measures with lasting impact."

Rev Orr echoed this commitment. 

"Many congregations in [Northern Ireland] are working and praying for a successful outcome to the COP26 talks and calling on the government to take real and meaningful actions for our planet," he said.