Policy

USPG ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

Background

The planet’s natural ecosystem is being disrupted by human activity so much so that we have entered a new geological epoch named the Anthropocene1. Deforestation, pollution, industrial farming, the human influence on ecosystems is clear and is causing climate breakdown2 and Earth’s sixth mass extinction3.

Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems on all continents and oceans. The atmosphere has warmed, amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and seas have warmed, risen and acidified. Extreme weather and climate events are increasing in frequency and intensity including drought and heatwave events and hydro-meteorological disasters. The consequences of climate change are wide ranging with impacts in sectors including:

growing scarcity of freshwater and increased conflict to access it

changes in productivity and yield in agriculture and fisheries

increased flooding at riverside and coast as well as greater flooding from storm surges

exacerbated health problems from more intense heat waves, under-nutrition and water- and vector-borne diseases

increased displacement of people and increased risk of violent conflict and civil war

the slowdown of economic growth making material poverty reduction more difficult, further eroding food security and creating new poverty traps4.

In addition to this, biodiversity – the rich diversity of life on earth – is threatened. Species extinction is now occurring at 1,000 – 10,000 times its naturally occurring background rate and scientist predict that dozens of species are going extinct every day5. Species diversity ensures ecosystem resilience, giving ecological communities the scope that they need to withstand stress.

Ecological and climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks. These risks are unevenly distributed and will disproportionally impact the least culpable and most vulnerable. Continued warming and long-lasting changes increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems4.

Substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond. The IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels (2018) described how it is still possible to do so but that this will require great ambition, heavy cuts in carbon emissions, a rapid transition to renewable energy and lifestyle and dietary changes as well6.

Embedding this background in the reality for USPG Church partners

[All regions including Europe and UK]

Other frameworks

Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – not only is Goal 13 to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” but climate change and sustainable development are intricately linked with climate change being the main accelerator of all other factors. Climate change needs to be addressed to successfully achieve the SDGs.7

Paris Agreement, 2015 – the first unifying universal legally-binding agreement among the world’s nations to combat climate change. Agreement to keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0°C above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more to 1.5°C; to become carbon net-zero between 2050 and 2100; to review each country’s contribution to cut emissions every five years, ever increasing in ambition and for a redistribution of wealth though “carbon finance” to encourage global adaptation.8

UK Climate Change Act, 2008 – an Act of the UK government legislated the level of the 2050 target that commits the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels.9 In 2019 the Government amended the act introducing a target for at least a 100% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (compared to 1990 levels) in the UK by 2050.10

London Environmental Plan, City of London – aims for London to transition to a low carbon circular economy. To be a zero carbon city by 2050 with energy efficient buildings, clean transport and energy. For London to be a zero waste city: by 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable wasted to be sent to landfill, and by 2030 65% of London’s municipal waste to be recycled.11

Southwark Council – Declared a Climate Emergency and committed to a Carbon Reduction Strategy to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030.12

Theology:

Taken from The World is our Host

We shared the understanding that creation is holy, and that we are called to serve (ebed) and protect (shamar) the earth now and for future generations (Genesis 2:15). We recognized that we have been complicit in a theology of dominion (Genesis 1:26), and realized that human dominion over the earth can only be exercised in the light of Jesus’ command that the greatest is the one who serves (Luke 22.26). We acknowledged that there are large economic and political issues at play in this complex conversation around unexploited fossil fuel reserves and the development of sustainable and renewable forms of energy: including the subsidization of fossil fuel industries and the powerful influence of big business on government policy throughout the world.

We believe that the voices of Indigenous peoples, whose relationship with creation remains integral to their spirituality and relationship with God, is of central importance to ongoing ministry on climate justice. We were profoundly moved as we participated in an Indigenous Eucharistic rite which connected Creation, Morality, and Redemption in a biblical, integral and comprehensive way. We were painfully aware that women frequently bear a disproportionate burden of climate change largely because they make up the majority of the world's poor and are often more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources threatened by climate change. The voices and contributions of women are therefore essential in responding to climate change. There is a compelling need to listen to the voices of our youth who will inherit the challenges and catastrophes we fail to address and pre-empt. We believe we must be reconciled to Creation and to one another and that there is an urgency to this call. We believe the issue of climate change is a moral issue at its heart.

We acknowledged that salvation in Christ calls us to responsibilities beyond ourselves. Especially in the developed world our view of salvation has often focused on our individual souls and journey to heaven. Our responsibility to care for God’s Creation has been overlooked or ignored. We have acted as if Christ only died to save the human race. The truth of the redemption of all things in Christ, which is the message of the life-giving cross, must be reclaimed (Colossians 1:20; John 3:16).

As part of the Five Marks of Mission the Anglican Communion explicitly commits “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. It is important to acknowledge that care of creation is imperative within all Five Marks of Mission.

USPG strategy

Action for climate justice transcends all three strands of USPGs strategy.

Rethinking Mission: for too long the fifth mark of mission: to safeguard the integrity of creation and to renew and sustain life on earth has been seen by many in the UK as a periphery issue. This is not the same for many USPG global partners for whom Care for Creation is integral to their spirituality. In Rethinking Mission, USPG looks to ensure that restoring and renewing relationships between God, people and the whole of creation is considered as we rethink mission.

Energise Church and Community: Action on climate change is a way in which faith and action can go hand-in-hand action. Connections between the diocese and communities of the Churches in Britain and Ireland and those of Anglican Churches overseas make real the global realities of climate change and increase the emphasis on urgent combined action. For young people of the churches in Britain and Ireland church relevance and integrity is intricately linked to church action on climate change.

Champion Justices: USPG strategy states commitment to action on climate change explicitly “we accompany churches of the Anglican Communion in their struggles against injustices associated with… climate change…We support Christians across the world to form communities of hope and resistance as we strive to give a platform to the faithful among those with power in the secular world”. 

Objectives:

USPG commits to transition to being an organisation with a net positive impact on the environment

By operating with organisational integrity and actively choosing to live responsibility in relation to our environment

And Promoting and equipping others so that they may be able to live responsibly