Bishop calls for radical action on climate change

THE CHURCH of England’s lead bishop on the environment is calling on the UK Government to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

This comes following the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities.

The Special Report on Global Warming was approved by the IPCC on Saturday in Incheon, South Korea. It will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December, when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

Speaking from the European Churches Environmental Network in Katowice, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, said that the evidence published by the IPCC shows that the risk level of climate change ‘is now critical’.

“Ours is the first generation to know and understand this and probably the last to be able to do something meaningful towards climate justice,” he said.

The report notes that allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5ºC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5ºC by 2100.

It says that the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and that some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.

Bishop Holtam said that this year has been the hottest on record.

“For Christians, striving to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustaining and renewing the life of the earth is at the heart of what we believe. We have a narrow window now to act if we are to protect God’s creation for generations to come – as individuals, communities and as a global family,” he said.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more.

For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (just under 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

“The Church of England is playing its part with around 2,000 churches now running on green energy tariffs, and as a voice in the ear of companies in the seven highest emitting sectors through its investment portfolio, leading shareholder resolutions to expedite transition to a low carbon future,” said Bishop Holtam.

“We can, and we must do more to pick up the pace of change. This is a holistic and positive change, with benefits for the way we live together.

“Building on the 10-year anniversary of the Climate Change Act, an ambitious UK government would seek to be a world leader by committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2050,”he added.