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Climate Sunday galvanises churches' commitment as COP26 gets underway

  • Tamsin Morris

L-R: Eileen Newington, Hannah Eves, Gethin Rhys, Caroline Pomeroy, Bishop John Arnold, Maria-Elena Arana,  David Mitchell, Jo Chamberlain and Jo Dallas at the Climate Sunday exhibition

L-R: Eileen Newington, Hannah Eves, Gethin Rhys, Caroline Pomeroy, Bishop John Arnold, Maria-Elena Arana, David Mitchell, Jo Chamberlain and Jo Dallas at the Climate Sunday exhibition

On Monday 1st November, at COP26, the Climate Sunday coalition of 31 Christian denominations and charities announced the final numbers of participants and commitments in its year of churches' action on climate change. Andy Atkins, chair of the coalition and CEO of A Rocha UK, announced that at least 2,200 churches had held a Climate Sunday and made commitments to continue their own action on climate change in the future. Leaders of participating denominations and charities gathered at the one day Climate Sunday exhibition to affirm their commitment to accelerated action on climate change and to press the UK government and other national leaders to put the world on a course to stay below 1.5 degrees of heating at this COP.

The Climate Sunday initiative motivated hundreds more churches to sign up to one of four pre-existing church greening schemes, taking the total number of participating churches past the 5,000 mark in the week before COP26. And at least 747 local church representatives have signed the Time is Now Declaration (joining a total of 192,230 signatory from across the public sector). This calls on the UK Government, in their role as chair of COP26, to be much more ambitious in seeking faster and deeper global emissions cuts, the delivery of long-promised finance to help poorer countries adapt to the climate disruption, and a green economic recovery from Covid.

Andy Atkins said: "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. 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."

Over the past year, the Climate Sunday initiative has encouraged churches to worship, act, and speak up on climate change. At their Climate Sunday service, congregations have been encouraged to deepen their understanding of the science of climate change, and the theology of action on it; to make a commitment to ongoing action in their own place of worship and community (such as getting involved with one of the available church 'greening schemes': Eco Church (coordinated by A Rocha UK), Live Simply (coordinated by CAFOD), Eco Congregation Scotland and Eco Congregation Ireland. And to speak up and use their democratic voice to urge the UK government to take much more adequate action by signing the Time is Now Declaration organised by the separate Climate Coalition.

Bishop Graham Usher, bishop for the Environment for The Church of England said: "Climate Sunday has inspired countless congregations to engage with the climate and biodiversity emergencies. I have seen people empowered to pray, to act, to campaign, and to make lasting changes to their own lives. Thank you for all behind this initiative that seeks to care for our planet and all of our global neighbours, many already impacted by climate change."

Richard Murray, chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland, said: "The Climate Sunday initiative demonstrated that we are tackling the climate emergency with urgency, leading by example in our churches. Christians across the nations are increasingly motivated and supported to care and act for God's creation. Scotland's churches are delighted to welcome the world to COP26, online or in Glasgow. 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. Climate Sunday helped link this directly with our spiritual life, focussing local churches on the environment in worship, prayer and action."

Reverend Andrew Orr, Church of Ireland and chair of Eco-Congregation Ireland said: "Climate Sunday has really inspired churches of all denominations across Northern Ireland to get involved in the movement to tackle climate change. Many congregations in the province 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."

Reverend Judith Morris, General Secretary of Baptist Union of Wales said "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. 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.

Climate Sunday has formal backing from CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, The Salvation Army, A Rocha UK, Operation Noah, Climate Stewards, Eco-Congregation Scotland, Eco-Congregation Ireland, Green Christian, the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union of Wales, the United Reformed Church, The Church of Scotland, Churches together in Wales, the Union of Welsh Independents, The Church in Wales, World Vision, The John Ray Initiative, USPG, The United Reformed Church, The Salvation Army, Joint Public Issues Team, CTBI, Christian Concern for One World, Church of Ireland, Young Christian Climate Network, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

LINKS

Eco Church, run by A Rocha UK, for churches in England and Wales - https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
Eco-Congregation Scotland - www.ecocongregationscotland.org
Eco-Congregation Ireland - www.ecocongregationireland.com/
Live Simply - https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award
Time is Now Declaration - https://thetimeisnow.uk
A Rocha UK - https://arocha.org.uk
Climate Sunday - www.climatesunday.org

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