Addressing climate change not only requires us to make changes in our own lives and in our local communities, but to also examine the structural reasons as to why we are collectively locked into an environmentally damaging path.
Meeting with Minister for the Environment, Hon. Greg Hunt, 2014
Campaigning for effective climate policies is therefore a key part of taking action on climate change. You can start with small steps like signing petitions and postcards, and as you gain confidence, learn how to write effective letters to MPs, visit your MPs and talk to them directly, or even organise your own campaign event, involving the wider community. There are many resources and organisations to help equip and support you. You don’t need to be an expert to get involved in advocacy – the important thing for decision-makers like politicians to hear is that this is an issue that matters to you.
Structural change is long and slow– but every voice that speaks up, counts and makes a difference in challenging what is unjust, even if we don’t see results immediately. Advocacy about climate change is also about giving voice to those who do not have the opportunity to speak. The world’s poorest people are those already most affected by climate change, though they have contributed the least to its causes. This is a matter of injustice for people in developing countries: we have a responsibility to be ‘truth-tellers’ about this fact. As well as advocating to decrease our contribution to climate change, we also need to advocate that poor communities are given the support they need (in the most appropriate forms) to be able to cope with the changes brought about by climate change. Part of our responsibility as people of faith is to hold our decision-makers to account about how the most vulnerable people are being protected.
ARRCC’s policy positions paper focuses on two areas:
- Mitigation: policies focused on slowing and reducing our contribution to climate change
- Adaptation: assisting the world’s poorest to be able to adapt and cope with the impacts of climate change as a matter of justice.
With your team, read ARRCC’s policy positions paper, then consider and discuss the structures that your faith community is a part of that relate to these policies. You could include:
Your own faith community and broader structures: Are there existing policies encouraging your faith community to be more sustainable and consider its environmental impact? Is your structure investing ethically and using its collective voice to speak up about climate change?
Local council: Look into the environmental/climate change policies of your local council – are there goals to cut down the carbon emissions of your local area? Are they proactive in helping people in your local area to live sustainably; for example, do they make it easy for people to recycle and compost their waste and take part in sustainable initiatives?
State Government: Where does your State Member of Parliament stand on climate change issues, and how could they be encouraged to represent your concerns in Parliament? For example, are there adequate public transport options in your local area to encourage people to be less reliant on cars?
Federal Government: Find out where your local MP and their party stands on climate change issues and Australia’s support for poor countries affected by climate change.
Help your community advocate:
- Talk to your faith community about why structural change is needed to tackle climate change. You might like to show a short DVD clip or share a story about how climate change impacts the world’s poorest people.
- Educate your faith community about where Australia currently stands in its policy positions on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and ARRCC’s policy recommendations.
- Give your community a simple first step, like signing a petition, to get started in advocacy. (See TEAR’s website on how to start a petition).
- Get your community to write letters to your Members of Parliament (perhaps at a suitable event) or explain during a service. You could provide a template or pre-printed card or letter and encourage people to add their own personal note about why they care and what they are doing in their own lives to become more sustainable. Handwritten letters make the most impact, because they show that real effort has gone into them.
- Take a small delegation to visit your MP to discuss your concerns, ARRCC’s policy positions, find out where your MP stands, and see how you can work together.
- Host a discussion forum inviting a local councillor, your State MP and federal MP to share where they stand on climate change issues and facilitate a discussion with participants about how civil society and Government can work together for sustainability at local, state, national and global levels. Ask these politicians to make a response to ARRCC’s policy positions. At the forum you could share what your faith community has been doing to show their commitment to sustainability.
- TEAR Australia’s advocacy ‘how to’ guides (including how to write a petition, visit politicians, research an issue and more)
Continuing the journey
The Steps2Sustainability program is about an ongoing, lifelong journey for your faith community. It’s not a linear process or a program with a finite end, but we hope you will continue to keep cycling through these steps, learning together and being transformed as a community and individually.
The benefits of living sustainably are endless, but the risks of not doing so include potentially catastrophic consequences, which are already beginning to be felt, especially by the most vulnerable across the globe. We hope that it will become the natural way of life for your faith community to integrate thinking about sustainability in all your decisions collectively and individually. We also hope that you will find your relationships with the earth, each other and your spiritual beliefs revitalised and enriched along the way. The future of our planet and future generations depends on this renewed way of living – but so does the spiritual, physical and environmental health of our current generation. We’re sure the journey will be a rich one for you as you get into the different aspects of sustainability, and we look forward to hearing from you about it along the way.