Faith Leaders unite for climate action in response to budget

Faith leaders from different traditions in Western Australia have responded to the Federal Government’s Budget by calling for stronger, co-ordinated action on climate change from both Federal and State Governments, as well as industry and the community.

Leaders from more than five religious traditions met in Perth today following the handing down of the Federal Budget, to say that the Budget, as a statement of our national priorities, does not adequately address the climate emergency we are facing.

Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, said, “As representatives of our respective faith traditions, we are here today because we view climate change as a most serious threat to humanity that must be tackled urgently.

“We live on a beautiful planet and we all share a responsibility to care for it but the reality is that we have not done that well enough. We now find ourselves in a climate emergency and we believe that the budgets and policies of Governments at all levels need to prioritise climate action that aligns with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

The religious leaders agreed that Governments, at both State and Federal levels, need to be doing more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the lead up to the 2019 Federal Election, and as the State Government considers new measures to mitigate the disturbing increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Western Australia, the religious leaders expressed their concern that not enough is being done.

The President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Dr Rateb Jneid said, “As people of faith, we urge all the federal political parties to adopt strong emissions reduction policies that reflect the latest science. We are in a climate emergency and what our government does or does not do to address this affects us all. We are already seeing the impacts on vulnerable ecosystems and local communities. In fact, we have a responsibility to all our sisters and brothers around the world to act with urgency.”

Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm said, “The Earth is our common home, for all people, creatures and eco-systems. People are coming to us with anxiety about the losses and changes that are occurring with climate change. It is important to pause and consider what actions we can take that extend loving-kindness to people across oceans, as well as the unique species of our local waters and landscapes.”

Sr Margaret Scharf from the Dominican Sisters of Western Australia and Co-ordinator of Adult Faith Formation for the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth said, “As Pope Francis has been telling us, climate change has many grave implications and its worst impacts will be felt by people in developing countries who have the least capacity to cope. Similarly in Australia, climate change affects people experiencing disadvantage the most and will push people further into poverty if not addressed equitably.”

Further comments were reserved for the State Government. The recent review of the WA Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) guidelines on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions has recommended full offsets for proposals with direct emissions above 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum. Given the significant growth in emissions coming from WA, the religious leaders urged the WA Government to consider the EPA recommendations as an effective strategy to curb emissions growth.

Rev Steve Francis said, “Some of the big companies affected by these proposed EPA guidelines are creating huge volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, but are they adequately addressing the environmental impact of those emissions?

“Unfortunately, WA has fallen behind other states in establishing appropriate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we think mechanisms like carbon offsets are a step in the right direction.”

The Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Perth, said, “We hope the WA government takes seriously these new EPA recommendations, so that they can be incorporated into a thorough, holistic plan to tackle climate change in WA.

“We welcome the announcement of an Energy Transformation Strategy for the South-West, but we see that a broader, robust climate change policy is still required to undertake a just and urgent transition away from fossil fuels.”

Rabbi Daniel Lieberman, Chief Rabbi, Perth Hebrew Congregation added, “The Bible (Gen 2:15) charges us with the responsibility of working and protecting the earth. This idea should be at the forefront of our minds in these times as we see the devastating effect that our lack of care for the environment is ravaging on our wilderness, seas and atmosphere. I therefore call upon the government of WA to take this responsibility seriously and consider the proposed changes as part of our contribution to making a difference for our state and the world.”

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