Welsh Government has designated November 2-6 – the original dates for COP26 in Glasgow – as Wales Climate Week, with a full programme of online activities. Because it is all online, people from across the world can join and hear about how one small nation, through its government and civil society, is responding to the climate crisis, and I hope many Climate Sunday supporters will log on during the week.
Welsh Government was keen to include faith perspectives along with many others, so on Wednesday afternoon at 3.30 I will, on behalf of Climate Sunday, be taking part in a panel discussion with Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion and the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Our session is entitled Climate Change – whose responsibility is it? Although I do not recall the Climate Sunday Steering Group ever having a discussion in exactly those terms, I realised that the three-pronged commitment we are asking of Climate Sunday supporters also offers a Christian answer to the seminar’s question:
We are asking churches to hold at least one climate-focussed act of worship. While worship is a corporate act, it deepens our own personal relationship with our Creator God. So it reminds us that we each stand individually responsible before God. For us in the rich world, surely each Climate Sunday service must include some deep repentance for our lifestyle and how it is accelerating climate change.
We then ask each church to make a long-term commitment as a community to one of the existing programmes to reduce our church’s carbon footprint and tackle the interlinked crises of climate and nature - such as Eco Church, LiveSimply, Eco-Congregation Scotland or Eco-Congregation Ireland. That reminds us that as individuals we live in community, and there are many steps – such as restoring nature on our church land or divesting our church funds from fossil fuels – that require action by the whole community.
Thirdly, churches are asked to sign up to The Climate Coalition’s ‘The Time Is Now’ declaration which is directed at politicians and world leaders – because climate change is the responsibility of people in positions of power. Decarbonising the national grid or creating a new national forest for Wales are not projects that an individual or even the most active church can take on – it requires governments to act with urgency. COP26 will provide a crucial platform for such commitments, but that requires politicians to believe that we, individuals and communities, care enough about tackling climate change to want them to commit to things that will, in turn, substantially change our lives.
So, whose responsibility is climate change? It’s my responsibility – and yours. It’s the responsibility of each church community and many other communities too. And it’s the responsibility of people in power. May our action over the next year of Climate Sundays help us and our leaders to shoulder our responsibilities for the good of God’s Creation.
Revd Gethin Rhys works as Policy Officer for Cytûn (Churches together in Wales) and is a member of the Climate Sunday Steering Group.