Faith leaders turn the heat up on climate policy

Two recent articles discussing ARRCC's Open Letter on Climate Change signed by numerous prominent religious leaders from across Australia's major faith traditions in June.

Two recent articles discussing ARRCC's Open Letter on Climate Change signed by numerous prominent religious leaders from across Australia's major faith traditions in June.

ARRCC recently faclitated the publication of an Open Letter on Climate Change signed by numerous prominent religious leaders from across Australia's major faith traditions. A hard copy of the letter was sent to every MP and Senator. It received coverage in the Jewish News, Insha Allah (Muslim), Southern Cross (Adelaide Catholic), Insights (UCA) Eternity (Bible Society) and numerous other religious newspapers. In mainstream media it was covered by the New Matilda, ABC Religion and Ethics online and SBS news.

Read the full text

Below are two of the articles that appeared on the letter, as well as a variety of responses from ARRCC members and supporters.

Faith leaders turn the heat up on climate policy

By Thea Ormerod, ARRCC President, and Sangita Bhatia

According to an article in The Guardian Australia climate change is the most divisive and toxic issue in Australian politics and is one filled with uncertainty. The anti-carbon tax rallies which ran before the carbon price was voted through were bitter, abusive and scientifically illiterate. However, this week we saw prominent religious leaders taking a positive stand on the issue.

The leaders have signed an open letter organised by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, and came together for an official launch in Sydney on July 4th. They are calling upon Australia to be a part of the global solution to climate change, in order to avert a dangerous potential 4° C rise in global temperatures.

Rev. Dr Brian Brown, Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod NSW/ACT, spoke at the launch of our stewardship of the earth's resources. "The gifts of Creation given to us are meant to be used wisely, and in a way which leaves a world which continues to provide for the needs of future generations."

At the launch the various signatories and their spokespersons affirmed our human interconnectedness with the natural world, and our responsibility to take care of it. They shared a concern for social justice for those who are suffering the effects of climate change in the Pacific and elsewhere, as well as for those whose jobs are displaced when society moves away from coal mining.

Ms Jacqui Remond, Director of Catholic Earthcare and spokesperson for Archbishop Philip Wilson, very eloquently responded to the question on coal mining. "As living creatures we must take responsibility for the spheres that we are a part of, the biosphere, the atmosphere, the lithosphere and the hydrosphere. What we understand from science that we are causing crises within each of these spheres primarily due to release of fossil fuel in the atmosphere. It's quite clear we have to reduce our mining of coal."

Ms Remond went on to speak about the Clean Energy Future legislation which includes a price on carbon. "The results show that in the first six months of its operation 4300 megawatts of power has been saved. We need to celebrate this achievement as this is an equivalent of 3 power plants being closed."

Keysar Trad, spokesperson for the Grand Mufti of Australia, said, "We are spiritual people but our spirituality is meant to change the way we live, how we respond to the social issues society is grappling with."

The leaders also invited all people of faith to participate in a transition to a more just and sustainable way of life. In Ms Remond's words, "Everyone can take part on lifestyle changes such as reducing their consumption, switching to GreenPower and installing solar hot water. We can also let our political leaders know about the change we want to see."

Professor Nihal Agar added, "If we all started applying these principles from now, collectively we will make a difference."


Unprecedented unity of faiths to protect the environment

by Keysar Trad, ARRCC Religious Leader Ambassador 

This month, an unprecedented move by the senior leaders from the largest faiths in Australia who came together to issue a very significant statement on climate change. The leaders, including the Grand Mufti of Australia have called on all political parties to take the issue of climate change very seriously and to reduce our reliance on and exports of fossil fuels.

The religious leaders have expressed support for carbon pricing as a means to reduce emissions in Australia.

For carbon pricing to work, it must include assistance in the form of exemptions for low-income households. Carbon Pricing has proved to reduce our emissions in Australia. This does not preclude the introduction of other ideas to help reduces green house gas emissions, but pending the successful implementations of new ideas, carbon pricing sits as a means at hand to help save our planet.

The religious leaders highlighted their respective faith tradition's support for sustainable energy solutions.

Speaking on behalf of the Islamic faith, Imam Mohammad Trad quoted the Hadith of prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him: Human beings are partners in three things; water, the produce of the earth and fire (which means energy in today's usage). This means that the usage of these three must be managed and sustainable to ensure that they are also enjoyed by future generations.

Readers of this column might be aware of a paper I had translated on ecology 20 years ago, this paper can be found at: http://www.speednet.com.au/~keysar/ecology.htm .

Allah Subhanah has guided us to understand that our role with respect to the resources He graciously placed at our disposal is a role of trustees, or stewards, a concept that is echoed in other religious traditions as well. As trustees, we will be brought to account for the manner we approached this trust and how we executed our duties towards it.

There is a very clear irony in this exercise that should not be lost on our politicians:

  1. The faith traditions are uniting to protect the environment.
  2. Both the ALP and the Libs are led by men who are open about their devotion to their faiths.
  3. Yet the strongest political position on the environment is being dictated by secular atheists.

Any act that is detached from the Divine guidance is deficient as it may lead to or end up in an extreme approach. The faith approach is a moderate approach that is initself sustainable because of its balance between usage and protection. We recognize the need to use resources whilst at the same time, we recognize the need to implement means to renew these resources and to minimize our carbon footprint. Certainly, carbon pricing might appear a great deal like a price on air, we need to view it more as a price to repair the air that industrialization has incrementally polluted over the years.

The message from the faith traditions is not about who to vote for, rather, the message is directed at all in politics and outside that we have to heed the message of global warming and urgently find the means to reverse the harmful emissions that are destroying our world. It does not matter which party you support, what matters is that you make it clear to your preferred party that you want them to seriously address the issue of global warming and lobby to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to increase investment in research to find viable alternatives.


Responses to the Open Letter

"Congratulations on the release on this statement from Australia's religious leaders on climate change and fossil fuel use. It's a powerful statement, and I really hope it gets the coverage it deserves..... Thanks again for your work on such an important statement."

Victoria McKenzie-McHarg
Safe Climate Campaign Manager
Environment Victoria
June 2013

"[I just found out] that ARRCC was behind the moving joint statement by Australian religious leaders released this week. Congratulations and well done pulling together such an impressive group of people with a strong statement -- it was just wonderful to see it come out."

Georgina Woods
Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner
Greenpeace Australia Pacific

"I was delighted to hear of your joint statement and have also been delighted to read Neil's article this morn in Eureka Street... Hugh Mackay in weekend Age said he hears little from the churches in public discourse. Your statement is urgently needed to be in the public domain."

Viv Williams
September 2013

June 2013

“Congratulations on the release on this statement from Australia's religious leaders on climate change and fossil fuel use. It's a powerful statement, and I really hope it gets the coverage it deserves.…. Thanks again for your work on such an important statement.

Kind regards,

Victoria McKenzie-McHarg

Safe Climate Campaign Manager

Environment Victoria”