The Chair of UK’s Committee on Climate Change has urged Catholics to pressure the Church leadership to follow in Pope Francis’ footsteps and put climate change and environmental issues at the heart of everything they preach.
Lord Deben’s call came as he warned that society has “been careless with God’s creation” and everyone has a moral responsibility to act on climate change.
The Conservative peer and former Environment Secretary made his remarks in a webinar hosted by the Catholic Union on the Gospel imperative for tackling climate change.
Recalling the “huge effect” Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ had on society when it was published almost six years ago, Lord Deben said the whole Church must follow in the Holy Father’s footsteps, as he pointed out how some Catholic bishops in the UK have never uttered a word on the topic.
“I think this is the moment in which I would say we have to put very considerable pressure on our bishops to put this at the centre of the Gospel they teach,” he said.
“I know perfectly well, we all know, that the bishops in the developing countries, the bishops in the south are absolutely determined to put this whole concept of creation and our responsibility for creation at the heart of the Gospel they’re talking about.” But this wasn’t the case throughout the Universal Church, he pointed out, particularly in the UK. “There are some bishops in Britain from whom I’ve never heard a word on this subject.
“We’ve really got to make the Church much more dynamic about it, not politically more so but in a Gospel way.
“We have far too much concentration on sex and far too little on creation. It’s much more about creation that pro-creation in my view.”
Looking ahead to the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year, Lord Deben said there was a “very small window” for stopping further temperature rises. He also stressed that the poor were suffering the most as a result of climate change and called for a “just transition” towards a carbon neutral economy to prevent widening inequality.
Lord Deben also highlighted examples where climate change was intensifying religious persecution, including in Nigeria where less land for harvesting was leading to conflict between Christians and other religious groups.
He described cutting spending on international development from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent as a “moral outrage” and said he was “ashamed” of the lack of opposition to the decision.
Picture: Members of Christian Climate Action take part in a climate change protest in London on 2nd Septembed 2020. Christian Climate Action, World Council of Churches, members of the Church of England and the Methodist Church, among others, took part. (CNS photo/Sean Hawkey, courtesy WCC).