Sunday, July 24, 2011

Creation, carbon and christianity

Recently the Federal Government signalled their intention to implement a regime to ‘put a price on carbon’. The Uniting Church, through me as President, and UnitingJustice and UnitingCare, welcomed that announcement. I know there will be some of our members who take a different view. In my travels I have encountered some UCA members who don’t believe in human induced climate change.

But our position on this is consistent with our previous commitments and with the broad consensus amongst the scientific community. When the Uniting Church was inaugurated in 1977 we pledged, in our Statement to the Nation that looks increasingly ‘prophetic’, that we would be ‘a voice urging the protection of the environment and the wise use of the earth’s resources’. More recently, the Assembly climate change statement 'For the Sake of the Planet'  ( articulates our concerns and commitments in this regard. We are becoming freshly aware of God’s call to human beings to be stewards and carers of the earth.

The Government’s package is a positive step towards a clean energy future for Australia. As Christians, we believe that God’s will for the earth is for renewal and reconciliation, not destruction by human beings. Surely decisive action on climate change is one of the great challenges of our time and should be front and centre in the prayer, thought and action of all who worship the Creator of all.

UnitingCare has carefully scrutinised the compensation package, especially its impacts on the poorest members of our community, and believe they are adequate.

Some argue that the price on carbon has been set too low or that critically important products such as petrol have been exempted However, it is an important start. What is needed internationally is a change of mind-set towards sustainable living. As a wealthy country Australia has an obligation to show some leadership in this regard. If countries like ours dither, especially given that we are the highest per capita greenhouse gas emitters on the planet, how can we expect other countries to take up the challenge? These days the commandment to love our neighbour surely must extend into this debate. I hope this signal from the government can act as a spur and encouragement to further research and development in the use of renewable energies.

The other particular perspective we carry into this discussion arises out of our close partnerships with churches in the Pacific for whose countries climate change and rising sea levels threaten their very existence.

So while it seems the $23 price is perhaps on the low side it has to be seen as the first step towards achieving our committed task of an 80% reduction on 2020 emission levels by 2050. This will help to ensure that Australia makes a fair contribution to addressing global warming.

Hopefully it will also release significant funds to support low and middle income households, protect jobs, drive innovation in clean energy projects and technologies, and support farmers who want to protect the land for future generations.

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