SRT, Eco-Congregation and the Scottish Churches
The Church of Scotland SRT Project has been active in addressing climate change at national and international levels for a number of years. In 1989 SRT produced a booklet ‘With Scorching Heat and Drought’ to explain the issues to the churches, followed by sections in its booklet ‘Seeing Scotland from the Summit’ in 1993. It has contributed to various reports to the General Assembly and a number of submissions to the UK Government.
The Eco-Congregation Scotland is a programme to help local churches understand environmental issues and make appropriate practical and spiritual responses. It’s coordinated jointly by Keep Scotland Beautiful and the SRT Project on behalf of the Scottish churches, and is part of a wider scheme involving churches all over Britain and Ireland. The programme in Scotland has been supported for 3 years with funding from the Scottish Executive’s Sustainable Action Fund.
BBC On-Line ran a special article on how various Christian organisations are involved. SRT has been working together with partner churches in most of the major church denominations in the UK, development agencies like Tearfund, Christian Aid, CAFOD and SCIAF, other Christian environmental organisations such as:
Christian Ecology Link (CEL)
John Ray Inititative.
The UK churches are especially promoting CEL’s Operation Noah campaign.
Stop Climate Chaos
As Christians around Europe marked 1 September 2005 as Creation Day, SRT Director Donald Bruce spoke on behalf of Tearfund at the Scottish launch of the ‘Stop Climate Chaos!’ campaign (along with other Christian development charities, and environmental NGOs such as WWF, RSPB and Friends of the Earth). Christian concerns for God’s creation and for the poor are inextricably linked. For Tearfund (as also with the Church of Scotland), it’s a ‘both-and’ situation. It requires co-ordinated action on energy issues, poverty, and development. The unique grassroots network of the church worldwide also enables it to tap into the impacts which climate change is having on the ground in the poorest parts of the globe. This is where people and communities stand to suffer most from these impacts but have the least resources or infrastructure to adapt and respond. In a new report ‘Dried Up, Drowned Out’ Tearfund’s partners tell of radically changed patterns of seasons with less or unpredictable rains, failed harvests and malnutrition, or of stable water sources drying up on the one hand or increased flooding on the other, of the encroachment of the sea on low lying land. A rising tide of people is being forced to move to look for better land and water to sustain even basic living, or in some cases just to have land - like the Bangladeshi man whose house is now half a mile out at sea, and who lives in a shack, well aware of the risks but too poor to go somewhere else.
Churches Raise the Alarm at the G8 Summit
Facing such situations of structural injustice and circumstantial plight, Christians cannot keep silent. When the G8 Summit met in Gleneagles Scottish churches rang bells or held silence on July 7 during the G8 summit to raise the alarm on the urgency of addressing climate change. Scottish evangelical leaders, all stressing the urgency of setting a concete long term plan to implement radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Letters went from the Environmental Issues Network of the UK and Irish churches to the Tony Blair calling for much greater action from the UK Government to turn the excellent intentions of addressing a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 into action. This implies policies which can deliver realistically what is clear to the overwhelming majority of the scientific community is needed to bring under control the damage our energy profligacy of the past century have set in train. Letters also went to the G8 leaders from the European Christian Environment Network, the Conference of European Churches and the World Council of Churches
These letters also emphasised the need for all people to play their part in their own lifestyles and that the churches are already committed to doing this. This was one of the themes of a climate petition from the churches of industrialised nations which was handed in 1997 to the world’s climate negotiators in Bonn, a few months before the Kyoto agreement. Since then we have sought to put our action into words by such schemes as Eco-Congregation which show that Christians are already changing their lifestyle to protect the planet. The powerful presence of Christian groups on climate change is striking, because we are beginning to show what might be done more widely by ordinary men women and children in our communities to make a real difference without which the world’s poor will still suffer unjustly from climate impacts.
Churches across the World
These are not a new development in the churches. The World Council of Churches (WCC) has been active in advocacy work from the mid-1990’s to the present day. See the extensive WCC documents on climate change. In 1997 the WCC invited churches and any others who share our concerns amongst the industrialised nations to petition our Governments for more stringent policies to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, and to encourage measures like the saving of energy and the introduction of much more renewable energy into our supplies. This had a considerable impact on the negotiations leading up to the Kyoto agreements. Operation Noah follows on this scheme with a new campaign, organised by Christian Ecology Link, over many years of involvement with the UN in the Kyoto process and subsequent developments.