European churches call for climate justice

A European network of Christian churches has launched a new plan to tackle global warming from the standpoint of North/South equity.

Called Climate Justice Now, the new climate initiative will build on work already begun in the Netherlands.

“We’re trying to establish a whole new way of looking at climate change,” said Gert de Gans, one leader of the climate plan supported by the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN).

“In ecological terms, the North owes a huge debt to the South,” said De Gans. “The rich countries are using up more than the entire capacity of the Earth to absorb carbon dioxide, emitting 24 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. This is twice the amount the Earth can cope with, but the atmosphere is part of the global commons and should be shared by everybody.”

The assembly called on church leaders to engage far more with government and business on environmental issues and to walk the talk themselves by following sound environmental practice in management of church buildings, forests and agricultural land.

Delegates said some churches in Europe had undertaken energy audits of their buildings but much remained to be done.

A core idea in the climate plan is that each person on the planet has a “fair share” budget of two tonnes of CO2 per year. The Earth can absorb every year 12 billion tonnes of carbon and the current world population exceeds six billion people.

Dutch citizens emitting more than their fair share of carbon are paying a total of 360,000 euros per year to projects in Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Cameroon, Brazil and Romania.

“We believe there is great potential to expand this small Dutch plan and export the idea to other rich countries in Europe,” said De Gans. “If everybody in the industrialised countries paid their ‘carbon debt’, about 15 euros per tonne, there would be money available to support sustainable development in the South.”

About 100 delegates attended the conference from Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland , Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland. Around fifteen attended from Britain and Ireland.

ECEN brings together representatives and members from Christian churches across Europe – Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic – whose membership comprises many millions of people. The conference began on September 27 and ended on October 1.

The European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) is a network of church delegates and all those interested in caring for and protecting the environment. ECEN is an instrument of the Conference of European Churches to address the relationship to nature and the environment from the perspective of Christian theology and Christian way of life.