ARRCC letter to PM in lead-up to Paris

ARRCC has written to the Prime Minister in the lead up to the COP 21 climate talks, declaring that Australia should carry its weight.

Dear Prime Minister

We are writing to you regarding Australia’s role at the coming Conference of Parties negotiations in Paris. As people of faith we share some common values with you, one of these certainly being that we love our families, our children, nephews and nieces.

However you have the opportunity to do something most of us dream of doing. You have the opportunity to make this world a safer place for all our families. When you and the Australian delegation travel to Paris for the Conference of Parties negotiations at the end of this year you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something extraordinary.

We understand that the fossil fuel lobby donates millions of dollars to the Liberal Party’s election campaigns, such that the Party is beholden to them to ensure Australia’s has weak cuts to carbon emissions. But we believe you also want a safe country for your three girls to grow up in. That you want people to remember your Prime Ministership with pride – we believe you care about your role as a steward of this country of ours. So we are asking you to act. Make strong cuts to our carbon pollution; reinvigorate the renewable energy industry so even the poorest of us can have energy, and support the poor of this world.

Right now, as a nation we are currently not carrying our fair share of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lagging well behind other nations in this common task. It is clear that other nations and organisations share this perception.[1]

ARRCC suggests that our role would be strengthened greatly if, as a nation, we put forward a robust emissions reduction target to the United Nations. Australia should commit to 40% reduction or more below 1990 levels. This is commensurate with our capacity, our disproportionate contribution to climate change and what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests is needed.

As stated in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’: “International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.”[2]

Pope Francis makes clear that a rapid transition is required from energy based on burning fossil fuels to renewable energy: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas - has to be progressively replaced without delay.”[3] There could be no clearer call from no higher a moral authority than this. There is a moral imperative for Australia to transition from our addiction to fossil fuels to renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.

Add to all this that Australia should wind back, rather than scale up, our coal and gas exports. We have a moral duty to disentangle ourselves from both the export and domestic burning of fossil fuels and determinedly transition our economy to clean, renewable sources of energy.

Numerous declarations by other prominent faith leaders reinforce this message. Three hundred and sixty, mainly American, Rabbis recently stated, “By over-burning carbon dioxide and methane into our planet'sair, we have disturbed the sacred balance … The crisis is worsened by the spread of extreme extraction of fossil fuels that not only heats the planet as a whole but damages the regions directly affected.[4]

Instead, despite assurances otherwise, we are witnessing a sustained undermining of the renewable sector by your Government, the winding back of public investment and the discouraging of private sector investment. This appears to be driven not by science, evidence and ethics, but by an ethical imagination that has been distorted by the prolonged influence of the mining lobby in this country.

While you are concerned with maximising Australia’s economic advantage, paradoxically the current course will hurt this nation economically. It is also exposing us, and all those with whom we share this planet, to a range of risks:

  • Security risks[5]. A risk assessment commissioned by the Conservative UK Government states, “Extreme water stress, and competition for productive land, could both become sources of conflict. Migration from some regions may become more a necessity than a choice, and could take place on a historically unprecedented scale. 
  • Health risks[6]. “Climate change could be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects on health of climate change will be felt by most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk.” 

We urge you to consider the numerous economic opportunities and benefits of a transition to a low-carbon economy, as expounded in detail by the New Climate Economy Report of 2015 by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.[7]


Finally, doing our fair share internationally to tackle global warming means that Australia should put new and substantial amounts of money on the table to finance the UN Green Climate Fund. Australia’s domestic emissions per capita are among the highest in the world. Having polluted the atmosphere disproportionately to our population size, we commensurately owe a greater ecological debt to our brothers and sisters in developing countries.

Various estimates have been made of the amount of money required to address the adaptation and mitigation needs of developing countries. Academics at the Australian National University, estimated that a possible range for Australia‘s longer-term share would be $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion, with $2.4 billion used as a reference point.[8] Our contributions to date are negligible by comparison.

Such international financing should be additional to Overseas Development Assistance, which should be dedicated to meeting Sustainable Development Goals, while the impact of climate change is an additional challenge. Currently, developing country adaptation and mitigation funding comes out of the Federal Government’s general Aid budget. This is unjust and unacceptable.

Australia has the capability to assume a genuine leadership role in safeguarding the future for the world’s children and grandchildren. In our emissions reduction targets and commitments to the Green Climate Fund, we must add to the impetus for scaling up global ambition, not impede progress. This is a global crisis and we must play our part fully.

Prime Minister, this is your moment to make history. Please do it with love for your children and this old country, rich in natural beauty, advising your heart and your politics.

Yours sincerely


Thea Ormerod

President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

[2] Laudato Si’: On the care of the common home, paragraph 169.

[3] Laudato Si’, paragraph 165.

[6] “Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change” in the Lancet http://www.thelancet.com/commissions/climate-change#Apr24

[8] Jotzo, F., Pickering, J. and Wood, P.J., “Fulfilling Australia’s International Finance Commitments: Which Sources of Finance are Promising and How Much Could they Raise?” CCEP working paper 1115, October 2011.