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World News

Justin Welby apologises after comparing climate inaction to those who failed to stop Nazis

by Donna Birrell

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised after suggesting failure to act on climate change could be worse than the inaction of world leaders in the face of Nazi atrocities against the Jews.
In an interview with the BBC, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who's in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, said:

"People will speak of them in far stronger terms than we speak today of the politicians of the 30s, of the politicians who ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany because this will kill people all around the world for generations, and we have will have no means of averting it".

"It will allow a genocide on an infinitely greater scale.

"I'm not sure there's grades of genocide, but there's width of genocide, and this will be genocide indirectly, by negligence, recklessness that will in the end come back to us or to our children and grandchildren."

Shortly after the interview, the Archbishop apologised on Twitter:

""I unequivocally apologise for the words I used when trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing us at Cop26.

"It's never right to make comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis and I'm sorry for the offence caused to Jews by these words."

Reverend Tosin Oladipo is Archbishop Welby's chaplain - he tells Premier why he thinks Justin Welby said what he did in the interview:

"I think he was really trying to stress the gravity of the situation that we're in. Choice of words aside, I think we all recognise that right now, with the climate emergency and things that are going on throughout the world, that if we don't act we are setting up not just for the next generation but ourselves huge potential disaster that is far reaching and far ranging. So I think the gravity of that was what he was trying to bring across and I think we recognise that to be true."

"When you're trying to bring gravity to a situation, you go to places that can be quite visceral. I think, as we've heard, he apologised for the offence that might have been caused by that statement.  I think is what tends to happen with these things - not to get caught up in the apology and the offence, but actually, to drill down into that message that we all really need to hear that we need to be thinking differently about how we face the challenges of the climate and the time ahead."

In the same interview the Archbishop had also suggested that world leaders attending the summit would be "cursed if they don't get this right."

Reverend Tosin Oladipo told Premier the Archbishop was just trying to stress the urgency of taking action on climate change:

"I think when you're talking in this language, you've got to think about consequences to actions. What we're saying is that there are serious and significant consequences to the things that we do, either positively or negatively. In Deuteronomy, it says 'I place a choice before you' and I think that's what we're faced with right now. It's a choice for leaders to choose to act positively, choose to make decisions that will lead to positive consequences. Otherwise, we face the negative consequences that may occur or will occur and are already occurring."

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