The climate will not wait and our children will suffer

Christian Aid director Daleep Makarji talks to Christian Today about why governments must act now on climate change.

|PIC1|CT: You were one of the many Christians to march through London on 5 December calling on the Government to act now on climate change. What kind of action are you looking for?

DM: We are telling our Prime Minister and the EU how urgent and important issues the around climate change and Copenhagen are. We want three things. Firstly, targets that the rich nations can achieve, maybe 40 per cent at the Copenhagen summit, because we believe historically the rich nations and particularly Europe have been the ones that have caused the problems of climate change.

Secondly, we want money for the developing countries to have a low carbon development model so that they can adapt, mitigate, use renewable technology. They need money for that and it must be additional money. We’re asking for at least 40 billion euros in the first round.

Thirdly, we want a binding agreement that holds everybody accountable right across the world, an agreement within the UN framework convention that the conference is taking place. No country can get away with it cos it deals with the whole world.

The reason for the urgency is that people in developing countries are suffering today because of the effects of climate change. We see the floods in Bangladesh, famine and drought in east Africa, hurricanes in central America and in East Asia, the recent typhoons in Philippines and tsunami in the Pacific. And it is coming home cos it happened in Cumbria. The temperature is changing, the climate is changing.

And this is an issue of justice. Can we who have caused the problem help now to find a solution to save the world? It is an issue now because our children and grandchildren will inherit a world that will not be healthy for them. I think it is urgent and Britain and the EU can take leadership.

CT: Christian Aid said last week that it felt wealthy countries were trying to abandon the Kyoto Protocol. What is it about addressing climate change and carbon emissions that seems to make governments of wealthy nations run a mile?

DM: This is the first time that the world has had an opportunity to have critical discussions about the future of the world and the planet cannot wait. This is not a discussion that can go on and on. Already they have taken some time since Bali and we were supposed to have a finished agreement by now. The Kyoto agreement which is legal and involves the UN and 148 countries – sadly the US chose not to be in it, although discussions are now on to bring them into the framework.

Unless we have an agreement which is binding, that is verifiable, that is genuinely able to see we can control carbon emissions and temperature rises beyond 2 degrees Celsius we will just be fooling ourselves and Kyoto gives us the framework. We want an amended, extended Kyoto but if we drop it now it will take another two years to get another agreement. We haven’t got the time. The climate and the science are telling us now it is too urgent.

|PIC1|And for a Christian agency it is an issue of stewardship, of justice, of responsibility, of a new style of life. It’s not just an issue of science. It is an issue where God’s people are suffering today because of what we’ve done in the last few years. They are suffering not because of anything they’ve done. It is not right that we allow this to continue.

With the correct facts and the correct science we’ve got to share the story that we can bring hope. I don’t want to sound alarmist because Christians are also people of hope. We believe there is goodness in people and we are telling the politicians ‘your public want you to change the way the world is organised’.

CT: Do you feel they are listening to the likes of yourself and other campaigners?

DM: I think we are being heard more than anyone can understand. This week I’ve seen Gordon Brown twice, Ed Miliband, discussing possible ways forward.

I think we as civil society and faith communities need both to encourage our politicians in Copenhagen but also tell them what we won’t accept. We don’t want a fudge and they need to hear that. Part of being a Christian is to be prophetic to speak out, stand up and take sides. The democratic system needs people to stand up and say what they want and be able to tell all politicians that we can and must save this world.

There are unfortunately climate change deniers and ones who say any deal is a bad deal. We don’t think that. We want a FAB agreement. Fair, ambitious and binding. Fair to developing countries, ambitious on targets, and legally binding so that all countries are signed up. If you get targets that are not really controlling global warming then what’s the point?

We might go there and have an agreement to finish the agreement in two or three months. I don’t mind that as long as we get a good agreement. But if we carry on dragging this the world and the climate will not wait and our children and developing countries will suffer.

We know 600 million people are vulnerable because of climate change and global warming. If we don’t deal with this there will be displacement, conflict, problems around dealing with resources. We’ve got to show science and good sense and political leadership can find a solution.

CT: How can Christians make sure that they are doing their part to help the climate?

DM: We must pray for a successful outcome because the whole world is depending on it. But in our personal lives we can recycle, reuse, change our lifestyle. We cannot sustain the lifestyle that we’ve got so used to. There is the saying ‘live more simply so that others can simply live’. Some of the principles are caring and sharing and loving. But we also need to be willing to get involved in the politics of climate change and bring our faith and our science and passion for justice into it. William Wilberforce took leadership on the anti-slavery bill, and we know what Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu did. It was tough for them but we need to be prepared to stand up and speak out not just to save our own skins but to save the planet and the whole of creation that we believe God so loved. We’ve got to take care of it. We can’t afford to mess it up.

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