Bishop of Oxford on climate emergency and work of church

In his letter to the whole world in 2015, Pope Francis notes how

“the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor”.

Our response must be nothing less, he argues, than an “ecological conversion” of every person and every part of society. Responding to the current emergency is the responsibility of every family, workplace, village, town and city, company and public institution.

The earth is God’s gift as well as God’s creation. We need to recover the insight that human beings are far more than consumers. We are called to be just stewards of creation, to care for the poorest and the weakest. Human fulfilment lies not in escalating consumption but in meaningful rest and labour and learning to be content.

The churches and faith communities must play our part and are beginning to do so. The Church of England’s General Synod is to debate the climate emergency next week. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book this year, Saying Yes to Life, focuses on the environmental crisis. It will be supported by an extensive digital campaign, Live Lent, asking every Christian to review their lifestyle choices. Many dioceses, including my own, are placing care for the earth at the top of our agenda for the coming years, recognising the distance we still have to travel. This means measuring and restricting our own carbon emissions, commending lifestyle changes, undertaking energy audits and campaigning for wider change. It means identifying challenging but achievable targets and the practical path to reach them. We need to hear the voice of government in policy detail, not just principle.

The Church Commissioners have led the Transition Pathway Initiative, backed by investors worldwide representing over $16 trillion in assets under management and advice, increasingly drawing companies into line with net-zero targets. Our sister churches and faith communities are each taking similar initiatives. This summer, hundreds of bishops from across the world will gather for the Lambeth Conference, many from regions already deeply affected by ecological disaster: low rainfall, rising sea levels, fire, flood and hunger. A major theme of our gathering will be the global climate emergency and the response needed by every section of society.

Along with others, I invite the Government to provide clear and ambitious policy signals, as they have just done with petrol and diesel vehicles, and to invite every institution and organisation to engage in this great question of our day so that the leadership we offer to the COP summit is demonstrably grounded in the trinity of policy intervention, technology solutions and changing the lives of our entire population.


Lord Judd (Lab)…The urgency of action cannot be overemphasised. However, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford reminded us, it is not only a matter of aspiration but of being certain about the means and the detail. That is why this specific debate is so important. The detail is critical in how we are going to do this…

Lord Grantchester (Lab)…The international aspects and politics of climate change were reflected in the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and my noble friends Lord Lipsey and Lord Soley. New disasters can trigger conflicts in fragile settings, while climate-related disasters already displace 25 million people annually…

Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)…I will try to encourage the scientists to have a wee bit more political sensitivity. It is important that they have a bit of political sensitivity, but I shall say, “Everything that I want you to do, I want you to do against the standard that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has challenged his diocesan parishioners with.” I will ask them not to worry about us and not to worry about the difficulties that other people will have in living up to what they need to do. I will ask them just to place care for the earth at the top of their agenda.

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