The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ANZP) is set to appoint a Climate Commissioner as it steps up its fight against climate change. The move comes after two environmental motions were combined into a composite motion at the province’s General Synod earlier this month. The Commissioner will galvanise Anglican climate action in the Pacific – where rising sea levels are putting entire communities at risk – and also intervene into political debates over a Zero Carbon Act, and a national Climate Change Commission, both of which have been promised by the Labour-NZ First governing coalition in New Zealand.
The resolution urges each diocese “to demonstrate its commitment” to urgent climate action by “creating a strategy for, and resourcing of, local and regional responses to climate change” and approving these strategies at their 2018 and 2019 synods.
The resolution also calls for the creation of a Climate Commissioner “to help further this work, and to appoint a group to scope and define this role and budget to support it.” The resolution notes that “a significant proportion of the role and resource” should be based in the Diocese of Polynesia, in recognition that its people are on the front line of climate change.
It says that the Climate Commissioner should will work with dioceses to create a “multi-faceted Climate Change Action Plan for the Province” to be considered by the next General Synod in 2020.
The operations and projects officer for the Anglican Missions Board, Michael Hartfield, welcomed the resolution. “We know that investing in risk-reduction saves lives. It is also sensible – and very effective, economically,” he said. “International estimates suggest that for every dollar spent on risk reduction, you can save $7 in response. So, it makes sense to respond – but also to ensure that people are better prepared for next time.”
Synod member Rod Oram, a long-time climate action advocate, spoke in support of the motion and, in particular, the new Climate Commissioner post. “You have heard a very correct and heartfelt plea that this (person should) be based in the Pacific,” he said. “The Pacific is the front line on this, and large resource needs to be there.
“But it is a really important to have resource here in Aotearoa New Zealand, because the next two years will be incredibly crucial here. We now have a government which wants to enact a Zero Carbon Act, and a Climate Change Commission, and all that flows from that to give us the framework that we have to have to address these issues.
“There are going to be huge fights, huge debates about this – and our church needs to be at the centre of those debates. I’m not suggesting we need a full-time person in each place,” he said. “But one plus one is definitely bigger than the sum of the parts.”
- This article is an edited version of a fuller report published by Anglican Taonga.