Love for our neighbour: God’s people and God’s planet
A statement by the House of Bishops representing Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the Dioceses in New Zealand, and the Diocese of Polynesia, in anticipation of the COP 21 Climate negotiations in Paris, December 2015.
For the sake of all people and other species on Earth, we pray for an ambitious, fair, and legally binding agreement to be reached at the COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris this December.
As Christians we believe that “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Teeming with abundant life and magnificent diversity, the symphony of creation gives glory to its Creator. We believe that God is reconciling to himself not only human beings but “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” through Jesus Christ.
The Earth is God’s gift to humanity and to all creatures. In unity with Pope Francis we “forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” As humans endowed with reason we are not the controllers and possessors of nature but its servants, just as we are servants of each other and of God. We affirm this in the mission statement of the Anglican Church, which commits us to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”
Sadly, however, we are failing to live up to this calling. There is no longer any doubt that human activity has upset the delicate balance of physical and ecological systems upon which all life depends, and we are beginning to reap what we have sown. Air and water are becoming polluted, and the soil depleted. The ocean is becoming more acidic. The food chain is being compromised. Species are dying, and the climate is changing.
In particular, climate change threatens to undermine the health, prosperity and social stability of all nations. Unchecked, it will precipitate food shortages, conflict, and forced migration on a global scale.
Already the impacts of climate change are being acutely felt in the South Pacific. This year we have witnessed first-hand the devastation that climate change will visit upon our region through more intense cyclones, severe storm surges, saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion, and the bleaching of corals.
Jesus teaches us to love our neighbour and especially to show practical love to the poor and vulnerable, declaring that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In this spirit, we believe that the needs of the Pacific Islands and other communities acutely vulnerable to climate impacts should set the terms for what is agreed at the Paris climate negotiations.
Therefore, we urge the representatives of New Zealand and of all nations at the Paris climate negotiations to work intently to secure a legally binding international agreement that limits global average temperature increase to below 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels by requiring rapid and deep decarbonisation.
Mitigating the worst effects of climate change is achievable if we act collectively and immediately. We have hope that a more sustainable and more just world can be created through strong and urgent global action. May God be with the delegates to the Paris climate negotiations in their vital work.
The Most Reverend Winston Halapua,
Archbishop and Bishop of Polynesia
The Most Reverend Philip Richardson,
Archbishop and Bishop of Taranaki
The Most Reverend Brown Turei,
Archbishop and Te Pihopa o te Tairawhiti
The Right Reverend Ross Bay,
Bishop of Auckland
The Right Reverend Justin Duckworth,
Bishop of Wellington
The Right Reverend Richard Ellena,
Bishop of Nelson
The Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley,
Bishop of Waikato
The Right Reverend Andrew Hedge,
Bishop of Waiapu
The Right Reverend Ngarahu Katene,
Te Pihopa o te Manawa o te Wheke
The Right Reverend Victoria Matthews,
Bishop of Christchurch
The Right Reverend Te Kitohi Pikaahu,
Te Pihopa o te Tai Tokerau
The Right Reverend Apimeleki Qiliho,
Bishop in Viti Levu West, Vanua Levu and Taveuni
The Right Reverend Muru Walters,
Te Pihopa o te Upoko o te Ika
The Right Reverend James White,
Assistant Bishop of Auckland
The Right Reverend Kelvin Wright,
Bishop of Dunedin