The Methodist Conference has said that failure to acknowledge the urgent need for radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is “morally irresponsible” in a new statement adopted by the Church.
The statement has been two years in the making. In 2009 a report entitled “Hope in God’s Future” addressed the need to look at climate change within a theological context.
Over the past year, British Methodists have been asked about their views on climate change in a Church-wide consultation. Now that the statement has been adopted, it will stand as the official view of the Church and be referred to by key committees, such as the Faith and Order Committee, when deciding on related areas of doctrine.
In 2009 the Church however signalled  it would continue to profit from investments in oil and mining companies. The Church said it did not believe the oil sector was “intrinsically ethically unacceptable.”
Over 20 per cent of the Church’s shareholdings are in oil and gas companies.
The Church also has investments in mining companies Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Billiton. Campaigners say that mining is one of the most polluting industries in the world, having a disproportionately negative impact on marine-dependent and land-based communities, especially indigenous peoples, and is frequently associated with forced evictions, militarisation, conflict and human rights abuses including extra-judicial killings.
Dr Richard Vautrey, former Vice President of the Methodist Church, said: “The scientific analyses of climate change and the role of human greenhouse gas emissions are well-grounded. It is now morally irresponsible to fail to acknowledge and address the urgent need for radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent intolerable damage to human populations and mass extinctions of many plant and animal species.”
This week the Church launched a webpage on how to reduce the carbon footprint of small, medium and large churches. The guidance will help to cut the Methodist Church’s carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 in line with Government targets. A report to the Methodist Conference last year revealed that the Methodist Church in Britain has a carbon footprint of around 120,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum for approximately 8,000 of its buildings.
The Joint Public Issues Team for the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union is lobbying the government on its climate change policy and has called for emissions from international aviation and shipping to be taken into account in international targets. Churches are also encouraged to start up eco-congregations: an environmental programme for local churches in Britain and Ireland. Last week, Nailsea Methodist Church was officially named as an Eco-Congregation after four years of working towards a greener church.