2018: time for the church to take a lead on climate change

Posted in: Comment, Featured
Date posted: 29 January 2018

Operation Noah chair Nicky Bull reflects on the year ahead in the fight for climate justice.

As we start this new year, we know these are vital times in the fight for climate justice. The tide is now turning: there is increasing awareness of the reality of man-made climate change, and growing pressure to take action now to prevent global average temperature increases reaching 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

And concern for the climate has become mainstream, as the business case for action becomes as strong as the political case. Today, climate change isn’t just an environmental issue: it’s an economic issue too.

It remains, of course, a moral issue and something we believe the churches should take seriously. That is where Operation Noah comes in.

Why the church must take a lead on climate change

The reality of climate change raises questions that go to the heart of our Christian faith.

We believe that ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’ (Psalm 24): God’s creation is a gift that we have a duty to care for and the wellbeing of all creation matters to God. We also believe that climate change is about justice. Acting on climate change is about loving our neighbours, now and for the future.

The Church is uniquely placed to demonstrate moral leadership on key global issues. We are now seeing political and economic momentum for widespread change on climate action, and the Church must speak out to support this – as well as doing so by its own actions, such as divesting from fossil fuels.

Our priorities

As the leading Christian organisation in the UK working solely on climate change, we have a lot to do. Put simply, our role is to influence the Church – and individual Christians – to take action for the climate.

Our two current campaigns are aimed at persuading churches to divest from fossil fuels and at persuading all Christians (regardless of background or political position) that climate change is an issue on which they can and should speak out.

Relationships with like-minded partners help us to do more, whether they are secular organisations such as or Christian NGOs such as Christian Aid and Tearfund. We have also been working closely with Climate Outreach, who specialise in researching how best to communicate climate change and are increasingly looking at working with faith communities.

2017 saw us put a lot of work into new outreach resources, particularly our new study guide for churches, which will be launched in the spring. We continue to look for new ways to reach new audiences, and help make the climate action message more accessible.

The nature of campaigning means that much of our work on divestment is behind the scenes. The results, though, are visible: from a motion on divestment carried at Methodist Conference to a group of bishops and clergy speaking out on the need for the Church of England to divest from Exxon.

Our next steps

We have just held our annual strategy day to look at what Operation Noah should focus on in the year ahead.

Some of our priorities are organisational. As a small charity with limited resources, we rely on support from those who share our vision in order to continue our work, whether that is through donations or through volunteering your skills. At the moment we are looking for a new treasurer and an experienced fundraiser who could join our Board of Trustees or work as a volunteer; could this be you or someone you know? There will be other opportunities later in the year, so watch this space.

Our hopes and plans for 2018 include:

  • Growing climate leadership in the churches, with high-profile people taking a stand for the climate.
  • Inspiring individual Christians to engage politically: following up our church study guide with new and innovative resources.
  • Building the movement for fossil free Churches: supporting grassroots activists working on divestment in their denominations.
  • Equipping divestment campaigners, investors and church leaders with research on the speed of transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
  • Supporting more local churches to make a divestment commitment, with the result that awareness is raised and a strong message sent to national and regional church investors.
  • Helping churches that have divested from fossil fuels to reinvest in renewable energy.
  • Making the scriptural case for climate action by building on our existing theology resources.

The future

Looking ahead, the next few years are a critical time in the fight against climate change, and we need to start building the momentum now. This year’s COP – the United Nations climate change conference – will be a key moment as countries assess their progress towards the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets set in the Paris Agreement. And 2020 is seen by leading campaigners as a crucial milestone: a turning point for the climate that could, with the right collaborative action, accelerate the transition to a safer, cleaner world.

Operation Noah is faith-motivated, science-informed and hope-inspired: valuable characteristics for twenty-first-century Christians who are seeking to further God’s kingdom on earth at such a time as this. These principles will continue to underpin our work as we look towards to the future.

Girl brushing snow from a solar panel.

Solar panels installed by the energy co-op set up by Balcombe residents in the wake of the anti-fracking protests in 2013. Photo by 1010. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.


Bookmark and Share

Registered charity number 1138101