Hundreds of church leaders call on government to scale up renewable energy

(Photo: Unsplash/Zbynek Burival)

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is among the more than 200 church leaders urging the government to focus on renewable energy. 

The call was made in an open letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of the Spring Statement and energy security strategy.

The church leaders said that a stronger commitment to renewable energy would help to address the climate emergency while leaving people in a better position to weather the cost of living crisis. 

Signatories of the letter include 50 Anglican and Catholic bishops, among them the lead environment bishops for the Church of England, Bishop Graham Usher, the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Bishop John Arnold, and the Catholic Church in Scotland, Archbishop William Nolan.

"We call on you to use the Spring Statement to provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK," the letter reads.

"These measures would reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security."

Recommendations include a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to address the cost of living.

"The Spring Statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments," the church leaders write.

"The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C.

"New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years.

"We urge you to increase support for vulnerable households across the UK facing a cost of living crisis as a result of increasing food and energy prices, through measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies."

The letter points to the commitment of many churches to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

"Many of our churches have set 2030 net zero targets and are taking action to decarbonise our buildings, including through the installation of solar panels, heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures," it says. 

"More than 2,000 churches across the UK participated in Climate Sunday ahead of COP26 and called on the UK Government to unleash a clean energy revolution and limit global heating to 1.5°C."

Christian Aid's interim CEO, Patrick Watt, said the rollout of renewables was "overdue for many years". 

"The war in Ukraine has been a stark reminder that a world which relies on oil and gas is a world that is economically and politically combustible, as well as being environmentally disastrous," he said.

"This is the moment we need to fundamentally rethink our energy system, and break the power of petro-autocrats for good by switching to clean, affordable, home grown renewables as fast as we can."

He added, "A rush for fracking or more North Sea oil would undermine efforts to tackle climate change and endanger some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world who are dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis and look to the UK to lead the way in decarbonisation, not pursuing more polluting fossil fuels."

CAFOD director Christine Allen said it was "a matter of survival" for the world's poor. 

"For humanity to be sustainable, all of our energy must come from renewable sources if we are to have any chance of protecting our common home for all of our sakes," she said.

"The time to finally move away from fossil fuels is now, we hope the government with all its power and resources will lead by example to make this ground-breaking transition a reality."

Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK, said the Spring Statement was a "crucial opportunity" for the government to embrace "a rapid and fair transition to a low carbon economy". 

Operation Noah Chair, Darrell Hannah, urged the government to stop new oil and gas developments, and help more Brits insulate their homes.

"It would be completely irresponsible for the UK Government to enable new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea only four months after the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow," he said.

"The time is now for bold measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, who are reaping billions of pounds in profits while families around the UK, including many of our parishioners, are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table."

Tearfund's advocacy director, Dr Ruth Valerio, added, "The Ukraine conflict has exposed the fragility of our energy system if it relies on fossil fuels.

"Let's not go back to polluting oil and gas when renewable solutions are cheaper, cleaner and more secure. Our response to the energy security crisis can't add fuel to the climate crisis."