It’s time to get serious about creation care. From widespread fires in Australia and the Amazon to the flooding of Venice’s council chambers, the disrupting effects of climate change are making headlines around the world. These effects are also being felt in Canada, including wildfires, more intense storms and flooding, and increased prevalence of diseases transmitted by insects which once were kept in check by longer, colder winters. In the Arctic, where warming is three times the global average, clergy are finding graves filled with water from thawing permafrost, roads and buildings are collapsing, and Indigenous people are reporting changes in wildlife populations and migration patterns that threaten their food supply and traditional culture.
All these changes are occurring while the global temperature increase is only 1 degree C on average. The impacts expected from a 2-degree average rise include widespread drought, coastal flooding, species loss, and catastrophic human mortality from hunger, drought, heatwaves, and vector-borne diseases. Those most vulnerable to these impacts include people in poverty, Indigenous peoples, people with health conditions, the elderly, women and children. Limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees would mean a significant reduction of these impacts, but last fall’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned that “urgent and unprecedented changes” would need to be implemented before 2030 to keep the global average temperature rise to the Paris Accord target of 1.5 degrees C. The federal government’s current climate policies would not even achieve its Paris Accord commitment of a 30 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.
Our Canadian economy and infrastructure are heavily dependent on the extraction and use of oil, gas and, to a lesser extent, coal. Transitioning to a lower-carbon economy is not a simple matter. For that very reason, however, it is crucial that all sectors of Canadian society, including governments, business and financial systems, as well as churches and other faith and community organizations, work together to address the challenge. Federal and provincial subsidies of the oil and gas industry add up to billions of dollars annually – money that could be invested in energy efficiency, renewable infrastructure, skills retraining for oil and gas sector workers, and climate change mitigation and adaptation for vulnerable Canadians.
This past July, General Synod passed Resolution C003, which, in addition to recognizing a global climate emergency, encourages all dioceses, parishes and members of the Anglican Church of Canada to make the Baptismal Covenant and fifth Mark of Mission a priority, while urging Anglicans to join with others to strengthen our voices on climate change.
In the same vein, this year’s Social Justice Vestry Motion invites parishes in our diocese to add their voices in advocating for federal policies that would meet Canada’s emissions targets and support a just transition to a low-carbon economy, while also taking the opportunity to consider ways to lower their own environmental footprint as a parish. A range of suggested options for action have been provided. Some parishes in our diocese have already taken significant steps in this regard, pursuing energy-efficient retrofits of heating, lighting and insulation. Other possible actions include promoting public transportation options, limiting or eliminating single-use plastic products, planting trees and/or community gardens, and examining the environmental impact of one’s investments. (The Investing with a Mission resource from the Responsible Investment Task Force of the Anglican Church of Canada may provide helpful guidance in this regard.)
As Christians, we understand ourselves as entrusted with the needs of our neighbours and the care of God’s creation. This motion gives us the opportunity to consider how we can make personal and institutional changes, as well as how we can advocate for policies on a wider scale, to address the threat climate change poses to our earth, our neighbours, and ourselves.
For more information on the social justice vestry motion, visit the diocese’s website, www.toronto.anglican.ca.