Sydney, Australia

Australian Christians have taken part in an international inter-faith action on climate change to demand that the country take much stronger emissions reduction targets to the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow.

More than 120 places of worship across Australia displayed banners or held events on Sunday as part of a global faith day of action involving people in locations from London to New York as well as several African nations.

Australia Western Australia Uniting Church in The City

Worshippers at Uniting Church in The City, Perth, Western Australia, gather to call for Climate Justice on 17th October. PICTURE: Courtesy of GreenFaith International Network.

Several vigils were also held on Monday outside politicians’ offices.

The Australian Government is considering a target of net zero emissions by 2050, but faith communities say only an ambitious near-term goal by 2030 would make that goal meaningful.

The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, a founding partner of GreenFaith International has organised the action across Australia with participants from a diverse spectrum of faith backgrounds and Christian denominations.

“Given the need for recovery spending from the pandemic, the government must not simply replace fossil fuels with fossil fuels,” ARRCC President, Thea Ormerod, said in a statement.

“We join with Australian youth who are crying out for the dishonest ‘gas- fired recovery’ to be replaced by public investment in our vast renewable energy potential.”

Many banners, calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “Protect Creation” and for “Bold climate action by 2030, starting now”, have gone up in every state and territory, on cathedrals, churches, Buddhist temples and a mosque, organisers said.

Morrison only announced on Friday that he would attend the COP26 conference, saying he wanted to discuss the issues with communities who would be affected by any policies before discussing them with his international colleagues.

Australia Sydney Vigil outside Scott Morrisons office

Local faith leaders and people from many faith traditions gather outside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office in Cronulla, near Sydney, to demand more serious targets for COP26 for 2030, on 18th October. PICTURE: Courtesy of GreenFaith International Network.

The coalition government’s political partner, the National Party, held a meeting on Sunday to discuss a 2050 net zero emissions target, which failed to come to a decision after four hours.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has previously said it was very unlikely the party would agree to increasing the medium-term target for 2030. Joyce told ABC radio on Monday that an agreement was “probably one of the biggest decisions for the future economy of Australia”.

“We have got a duty not only to the people in our electorates but also to the economy of this nation,” Joyce said.

“Our economy is not like Europe’s, it is not like France’s or England, or, might I say, the United States. It’s entirely different in that it’s so heavily weighted to the export of iron ore, coal, gas, gold, agricultural products. And so in this parliament we have to be diligent.”

Other senior members of federal parliament also have been targeted, including the envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Warren Entsch, as well as corporations such as BlackRock which reportedly has divested itself of coal shares in recent years, but still invests in fossil fuels.

Spokesperson for the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland, Father Neil Forgie, said they support Entsch in his calls for stronger climate action, “but we want to encourage him to speak up even more strongly”.

“He must tell the Prime minister that the time for half-measures is over - we must drastically reduce emissions this decade,” Forgie said.

In Perth, people met outside the office of outgoing MP Steve Irons, who is in the same prayer group as Morrison.

Ann Zubrick, Presiding Clerk of Quakers Australia, called on Irons to let Morrison know new ways of obtaining energy were important and they were all praying for an end to the fossil fuel industry.

“Funding for a gas-fired post-COVID recovery is immoral,” Zubrick said. “Instead, we need public investment in large-scale renewable energy which would create more jobs and be better for our farmers, water security, our health and the climate.”

Australia St Johns Adelaide stand for climate change action

Faith leaders at St John's Anglican Church, Adelaide, South Australia, stand up for climate action, on 17th October, 2021. PICTURE: Courtesy of GreenFaith International Network.

In Melbourne, Pentecostal Pastor Rob Buckingham, of Bayside Church, said they were praying that the Federal Government will take bold action.

“We can already see the early but escalating effects of climate change. We must rise to the challenge now, in order to protect the future of humanity,” Buckingham said.

“We share the Nationals’ concern for regional communities, but with the world moving away from fossil fuels, it is more compassionate to assist these communities to diversify their local economies. Otherwise, we abandon them to an uncertain and bleak future.”

He said this was especially so because people in the regions also bore the brunt of fires, floods and droughts “made worse by climate change”.

Joyce, meanwhile, says discussions will continue about the adoption of stronger emissions targets ahead of Morrison’s departure for COP26, which starts on 31st October and runs until the 12th November.