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Faith leaders call for urgent climate change action at Commonwealth leaders' meeting

Posted on: April 18, 2018 10:03 AM
The environment features heavily on the programme for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This plastic whale, produced as part of the Sky Oceans’ campaign, greets people taking part in the Commonwealth youth, women, business and citizens forums at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.
Photo Credit: Gavin Drake / ACNS

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has joined more than 170 other faith leaders from across the Commonwealth urging the 53 member-nation governments to turn “words into action” on climate change. The heads of government are meeting in London this week for their biennial CHOGM summit. The Anglican Communion is playing a significant role in official Commonwealth youth, women, business and citizens forums; and in a parallel programme of events. In a letter published in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, the faith leaders say that “not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected” by climate change, and that the greatest impact is felt by the group’s poorest people.

“We, faith leaders from across the Commonwealth, representing peoples of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas, come together in friendship and co-operation to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London,” the faith leaders say in their letter. “Not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected or unthreatened by the impacts of climate change. Commonwealth citizens, especially the poorest, struggle to thrive amidst our changing climate.

“Subsistence communities in African countries struggle to grow crops in increasingly arid earth. In the Pacific, rising sea levels threaten the existence of whole countries. In Asia, salination is driving people from their land. Arctic communities’ ways of life are undermined. Ever more violent and unpredictable storms devastate the Caribbean. At the scale of the Commonwealth we can see that the crisis of poverty and the crisis of ecology are one; each of our faith traditions reminds us of the deep interconnectedness of people and our planet. As a common problem, this crisis requires a common solution. And it is needed now.

“The Charter of the Commonwealth affirms the foundations for cooperation between Commonwealth nations. But it is time to turn words into action. We call on the Heads of Government gathering in London to commit to urgent action on climate change adaptation and mitigation in line with the Paris Agreement and to pursue every effort to keep the increase in average global temperature below 1.5 degrees.”

They add: “Our people call out to you. We stand beside them. Your time to act is now.”

The signatories include the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and the province’s environmental co-ordinator, the Revd Dr Rachel Mash; Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network; the Revd Niyongere Pierre Celestin, an Anglican priest in Uganda; Archbishop Ron Cutler, of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in Canada; the Bishop of Edmonton, Jane Alexander; Bishop Shourabh Pholia of the Church of Bangladesh’s Diocese of Barisal; the Revd Laiseni Fanon Charisma Liava'a, an Anglican priest in Polynesial; the Archbishop of Wales, John Davies; and the Revd Canon John Kafwanka, director for mission for the Anglican Communion.

A full list of signatories can be found here.