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PRESS RELEASE (Updated): Former Archbishop of Canterbury, 60+ bishops and 500+ church leaders write to PM and Chancellor calling for renewables push

  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and 67 other Anglican and Catholic bishops sign an open letter to the Government, pushing back on more fossil fuels.
  • Church leaders from around the UK are calling for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to tackle the cost of living crisis and for energy efficiency measures to reduce heating bills.
Photo of solar panels being installed on St George’s Church, Brighton (Ruth Knight)

Ahead of the Government’s Spring Statement and energy security strategy, more than 500 UK church leaders have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on them to tackle the climate emergency, address the cost of living crisis and stop all new fossil fuel developments, as the International Energy Agency says we must do in order to limit global heating to 1.5C. 

The letter, signed by 68 Anglican and Catholic bishops, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, says: ‘We call on you to use the Spring Statement to provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK. These measures would reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security.’

Church leaders are urging the Government to implement a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies in order to address the cost of living crisis and to stop all new oil and gas developments. They write: ‘The Spring Statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments. The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C. New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years.’

‘We urge you to increase support for vulnerable households across the UK facing a cost of living crisis as a result of increasing food and energy prices, through measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.’

Other signatories to the letter include the leaders of the Church in Wales (Most Revd Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Bangor) and the Scottish Episcopal Church (Most Revd Mark Strange, Primus and Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness), the lead environmental bishops for the Church of England (Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich), the Catholic Church in England and Wales (Rt Revd John Arnold, Bishop of Salford) and the Catholic Church in Scotland (Most Revd William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow). Church leaders from the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union, the Quakers, the Presbyterian Church in Wales and the Jesuits in Britain have also signed the letter.

The open letter to the Prime Minister and Chancellor also notes that many churches have set a 2030 target for reducing emissions to net zero, writing that churches are ‘taking action to decarbonise our buildings, including through the installation of solar panels, heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures. More than 2,000 churches across the UK participated in Climate Sunday ahead of COP26 and called on the UK Government to unleash a clean energy revolution and limit global heating to 1.5°C.’ 

Supporting the open letter from church leaders are a number of charities, including Operation Noah, Christian Aid, CAFOD, A Rocha and Tearfund.

Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints, Ascot, one of the signatories of the letter, said:

‘The Prime Minister and Chancellor must act now to insulate millions of British homes, scale up renewable energy, give more support to struggling households and immediately stop all new oil and gas developments, as scientists say we must to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.’

‘It would be completely irresponsible for the UK Government to enable new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea only four months after the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. The time is now for bold measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, who are reaping billions of pounds in profits while families around the UK, including many of our parishioners, are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.’

Patrick Watt, Interim CEO of Christian Aid, said:

‘The war in Ukraine has been a stark reminder that a world which relies on oil and gas is a world that is economically and politically combustible, as well as being environmentally disastrous. This is the moment we need to fundamentally rethink our energy system, and break the power of petro-autocrats for good by switching to clean, affordable, home grown renewables as fast as we can.’

‘If the UK is to be taken seriously as a global leader on climate change it needs to take this opportunity to accelerate the roll out of renewables as well as widespread energy efficiency measures which have been overdue for many years.’

‘A rush for fracking or more North Sea oil would undermine efforts to tackle climate change and endanger some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world who are dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis and look to the UK to lead the way in decarbonisation, not pursuing more polluting fossil fuels.’

Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, said:

‘This statement next week comes at a crucial time for the world’s energy industry. It’s never been more clear, nor more urgent, that we need a just transition to a low carbon economy. For the world’s poor, access to energy is a matter of survival.’  

‘For humanity to be sustainable, all of our energy must come from renewable sources if we are to have any chance of protecting our common home for all of our sakes. The time to finally move away from fossil fuels is now, we hope the government with all its power and resources will lead by example to make this ground-breaking transition a reality.’

Andy Atkins, Co-Chair of Churches’ Environmental Issues Network, and CEO of A Rocha UK, said:

‘Thousands of churches are sending aid to Ukraine, continuing to deepen their own action on climate change and supporting the poor and vulnerable locally, through foodbanks and other means. Next week’s statement is a crucial opportunity for the government, with its far greater resources, to wholeheartedly embrace a rapid and fair transition to a low carbon economy.’

Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, said:

‘The Ukraine conflict has exposed the fragility of our energy system if it relies on fossil fuels. Let’s not go back to polluting oil and gas when renewable solutions are cheaper, cleaner and more secure. Our response to the energy security crisis can’t add fuel to the climate crisis.’

Notes for Editors:

  • Church leaders’ open letter: The text of the Church leaders’ open letter and full list of signatories can be found here.
  • Net Zero by 2030: The Church of England, Methodist Church, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Diocese of Westminster and Archdiocese of Birmingham in the Roman Catholic Church, have all set targets of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
  • Climate Sunday initiative, organised by the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)’s Environmental Issues Network (EIN), is the UK’s largest joint project planned by UK Churches on Climate Change.  In the run-up to COP26, the Climate Sunday initiative asked Churches to act, pray and speak up on climate change. As well as signing the ‘Time is Now’ declaration, Christians were invited to hold their own Climate Sunday services in churches across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They were also encouraged to get involved with a church ‘greening scheme’, such as A Rocha’s Eco Church, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s Live Simply or Eco Congregation in Scotland and Ireland.
  • Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis.
  • A Rocha UK is a Christian charity undertaking practical nature conservation and education with local communities and equipping others to care for the environment. Their main mission is to mobilise UK Christians and Churches to care for the environment.

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