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Church of England
Church News

Lambeth Conference addresses climate emergency, launches Anglican Communion Forest

by Tola Mbakwe

More than 650 Anglican bishops and their spouses travelled from the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury for a day at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday, where discussions focused on the environment and sustainable development.  The "call" on the topic invited bishops to "support commitments to tackle urgently the triple environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution".

It also asked them to "advocate with the international community to deliver, as a matter of justice, the required financial commitments for loss and damage due to climate change, and to speak and act prophetically within the Communion on the issue, to demonstrate solidarity."

A tree was also planted in the Lambeth Palace Garden to mark the launch of 'The Anglican Communion Forest.'

The Communion Forest is a global initiative led by provinces, dioceses and individual churches across the Anglican Communion. 

It includes church members carrying out local activities such forest protection, tree growing and eco-system restoration.

Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, who is he lead bishop on environment told Premier: "I am very passionate about having worked on this project to encourage more trees to be planted throughout the Anglican Communion, a great canopy of trees across 165 different countries. There might not be trees, in some places it might be grassland or mangrove swamps or heathland. But how can we care for God's creation more, and I think planting a tree is a great symbol of hope. Restoring a habitat is a great symbol of love. I'm passionate about this project and what it can do for people's lives in local communities."

The day included a variety of speeches. One of them was from Elizabeth Wathuti, a youth climate activist from Kenya.

She told Premier about how the climate emergency is detrimentally impacting the world's poorest and it's evident in her home country. 

"For the past few months, I have spent time with people who are on the frontline of this crisis. I've spent time with communities that are facing the prolonged drought that is going on across the Horn of Africa and especially in the north eastern [part]. 

"I've spent time with a particular community that's in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, a community where 80 per cent of livelihoods comes from the livestock, but I have been there driving across the road and seeing carcasses of the livestock, the goats and the cattle that they depend on for the livestock. 

"So where will these communities turn to if the rains continue to fail for the next consecutive years? So it's really important that we remember that this is a human lived experience. And it's not just about the numbers that we see on the papers. It's not just about the statistics, the statistics actually, in reality mean a lot and in reality, people are living by experience, and we must understand that that this is about people's lives and livelihoods."

Wathuti, who also spoke at COP 26 in Glasgow last year stressed that leaders should stick to their word on climate change, as there have been too many broken promises. 

"Right now we have COP 27,coming up in Egypt. And that means that for the past years, leaders have been negotiating about the climate crisis ever since before I was born. And right now for most of the promises, and most of the things that need to be done about the climate crisis, they still are in terms of pledges and commitments that have not been made. 

"These include climate finance commitments that have been made by rich countries that have not been delivered until today. And this is really causing a lot of loss, a lot of damage for communities that have done the least across this crisis. 

"The leaders come to international platforms and they promise to do one thing, they talk about how they recognise that we need to urgently stop investing in fossil fuels. But they get back to their countries and begin to commission new coal mines and oil mines. And this is not helping. This in itself is not helping humanity. It's not helping people that are facing the worst impacts of the crisis right now.

"Leaders need to rebuild this trust with the people by committing to things that they actually do and actually taking urgent action and not just promising and pledging and committing to things they're not doing on the ground."

Outside the doors of Lambeth Palace, protestors from Christian Climate Action - a brand of Extinction Rebellion, implored bishops, particularly from the global north, to use their "moral voice." 
They believe the climate emergency is a matter of racial justice, because of the countries most as risk. 

They also called on the Church of England to officially divest from fossil fuels; the protest group estimate the Church maintains £55m in fossil fuel investments. 

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