Faith leaders unite in urging the Scottish Parliament to pass an ambitious new Climate Change Bill

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning joined faith leaders from across Scotland on Wednesday 18th April to call for the passing of a “strong and ambitious” new Climate Change Bill.

Faith leaders outside the Scottish Parliament
Faith leaders outside the Scottish Parliament

“We share the earth, our common home gifted to us, with seven billion others whose descendants depend on getting our response to climate change right,” he said. “We have faith that this is possible.”

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 originally set a world-leading target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

The Scottish Government now intends to introduce a new Bill which increases the target to a 90% emissions reduction.

However, faith leaders are calling for “a net target of 100%” to be introduced, saying that it “might appear very difficult to achieve but with rapid decarbonisation of the economy envisaged in the draft Scottish Energy Strategy there is no reason to dismiss it.”

The Moderator, Bishop Joseph Toal and Mr Ameed Versace were among the faith leaders speaking at a special event held at the Dynamic Earth centre in Edinburgh, hosted by Claire Baker MSP and coordinated by Christian Aid, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Tearfund and Islamic Relief.

Strength in numbers

Dr Browning supported the call on MSPs to join faith leaders in making this commitment, saying “I welcome this opportunity to join faith leaders to call for Scotland to assert its leading role in responding to climate change.”

Addressing the delegation on the strength and influence of faith leaders working together in tackling climate change, he added: “Faith leaders around the world are calling for climate justice. We know from Christiana Figueres, UN Secretary to the Paris climate summit, that faith groups played a vital role at the summit in December 2015 in helping governments have the confidence to reach an agreement. This role is not new but it is becoming more important for a number of reasons.

“First, churches and other faith groups have a vital role in bringing messages and stories from those most affected by climate change to audiences and political leaders in Scotland and elsewhere.

“While it is important to get the facts and figures about tonnes of carbon and percentages and targets right it is the human stories that change hearts and minds and faith groups understand this.

“Last November the Church of Scotland helped bring together representatives from churches in the Pacific, from Tuvalu and Fiji to meet the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, when she visited the UN climate conference in Bonn. Their stories about the catastrophic impact of climate change on Pacific islands, and the stories that partners here today bring from around the world to Scottish audience make clear the message we need to understand here and elsewhere: climate change is changing lives.

“We are proud that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government have shown leadership in promoting climate action in the past and now have the opportunity to assert once again that Scotland has a leading role to play.”

Our common home

Dr Browning also strongly believes that faith groups hold the key to reaching out and engaging with communities across Scotlan on climate justice.

“We recognise that this is a tremendous challenge and here is a second reason why faith groups are important and can play a growing role.

“Working with Eco-Congregation Scotland we can reach out to over 400 eco-congregations across Scotland to help give them the confidence to make changes in their lives and in their communities to respond to this challenge.”

The full list of faith representatives who joined Dr Browning in advocating for a revised Climate Change Bill were:

  • Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell and Bishop President of SCIAF
  • John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley
  • Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
  • Board of Interfaith Scotland
  • Gordon Hudson, Chief Executive, Eco-congregations Scotland
  • Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Revd. Alan Donaldson, General Director of the Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Ravinder Kaur Nijjar-Sikh Representative on Scottish Religious Leaders Forum and Chair of Religions for Peace UK Women of Faith Network
  • Revd. Professor Kenneth Ross, Chair of Scotland Malawi Partnership
  • Shabir Beg, Chairman, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society
  • Ameed Versace, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

You can read Dr Browning's full speech here.

Coming up on Saturday 28th April is Eco-Congregation Scotland’s Annual Gathering at Augustine Church in Edinburgh. The event will be an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and discuss the world’s future during Year of Young People 2018.

Over the last decade, the Church has played a significant role in advocating for climate change and encouraging congregations and communities to advocate for global change and to deliver practical steps locally. Find out more about the Church of Scotland’s work on ‘Caring for Creation’.