At the 96th AGM of the Irish Council of Churches, we presented shared Climate Justice Affirmations about how we can work as churches to mitigate and challenge the effects of climate breakdown.
We will be sharing some of these affirmations through a special series of blogs.
This second blog summarises the address given by Prof. John Barry, professor of Green Political Economy at QUB at our AGM in relation to the Climate Justice Affirmation below.
‘We acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence for human–caused climate change and the consequent need for action both to mitigate its effects and adapt to them. We are called to change our behaviour collectively and as individuals in order to achieve this.’
– Climate Justice Affirmation
Prof. Barry drew on the special place the Church has in responding to climate and environmental issues. He noted that when people see the enormity of climate breakdown they can go into despair or depression. However, faith communities have a role in responding to this through stories of hope, courage and creation. These stories can promote changes in both collective and individual actions that can help deal with the effects of climate breakdown.
Church representatives were challenged to have courage in the face of this crisis and to use their resources and credibility to promote changes, big or small, throughout their congregations. It was noted that churches do not have all the answers but have so much to contribute when it comes to inspiring and mobilising people into action.
Prof. Barry explored Climate breakdown as cultural and ethical, not just a physical phenomenon and began to draw on the rich frameworks found in faith communities for addressing this ethical challenge and opportunity of the ecological crisis. He presented the cardinal virtues as a guide to action:
- Justice – Climate Justice : In the sense of a ‘just transition’ to a more environmentally ethical way of living.
- Fortitude/courage – To overcome the feelings of despair when realising the extent of climate issues.
- Temperance – Calls us to challenge the culture of today that suggests that the planet is ours to abuse for our own gain, rather we should promote an ethic of sufficiency
- Prudence – Reminds us that we need to exercise wisdom and remember that the planet is not ours to abuse; we are here to beautify and look after it.
A reminder was given that hope is generated through action. This can be local and collective action on climate breakdown and energy transition or individual actions and changes of living. Whatever the approach, we need to focus on actions that are tangible and have co–benefits, for example, job creation, community building, reconciliation are valuable byproducts for all involved. New habits and identities should be cultivated as part of a thoughtful response to climate breakdown, with a focus on creativity and imagination.
We, as churches, are called to be intentional in our treatment of the environment, acting in a meaningful way, allowing our knowledge of creation to direct us in our actions. This correlation of head, hand and heart in responding to climate breakdown is how we can make a lasting difference for the future.