Smoke billows from a chemical plant in Hamilton, Ont. The Canadian Council of Churches has written Environment Minister Peter Kent demanding Canadian action on climate change. CNS photo/ J.P. Moczulski, Reuters

Church coalition demands action on climate change

By 
  • December 1, 2012

As Environment Minister Peter Kent prepared to head to Doha, Qatar, to represent Canada at United Nations-sponsored climate talks, Canada’s Catholic bishops and the Canadian Council of Churches prodded him to do more to prevent a warmer, less livable planet.

“A much more serious commitment to the environment is being asked of Canada at the present time,” reads a Nov. 21 CCC letter to Kent which the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed. The letter calls for Kent and his government to provide:

o “a credible plan” to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels;

o leadership on shoring up the climate adaptation fund for developing countries;

o a national energy plan that covers both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.

“The book of Genesis teaches that creation in all its beauty and goodness has been entrusted to the care of humanity,” reads the CCC letter to Kent. “The October 2011 Canadian Interfaith Call to Leadership and Action emphasized that ‘we have a moral imperative to act.’ One year later, the Commission of the Canadian Council of Churches remains convinced of the need for all Canadians to move forward in protecting the environment and resolving the moral and ethical issues associated with climate change.”

COP18 negotiations in Doha began Nov. 26 and the major Catholic alliance of development agencies has fingered Canada as a major problem.

“Canada’s announcement of withdrawal (from the Kyoto Protocol) came after the closure of last year’s (UN) summit in Durban (South Africa) and that encouraged other countries to follow suit,” said CIDSE spokesman Roland Scholtalbers. CIDSE represents 15 European Catholic development agencies plus the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

Canada’s argument that China and the United States are not part of Kyoto, creating an uneven economic playing field, is no excuse for inaction, Scholtalbers said. Rather than ratcheting down emission targets, developed nations need to aspire to higher ambitions, he said.

“To decide to retract your commitment to emission reductions, that is a bad sign,” Sholtalbers told The Catholic Register. “Eighty per cent of Canadians are worried about the climate crisis. Indeed the Canadian government should listen to Canadian opinion, to people who are worried, and play a constructive role in climate negotiations.”

Kent claims Canada’s approach to international climate negotiations is based on a realistic view.

“We are not about empty promises or vague discussions on the environment,” Kent told the Canadian Club in Toronto in October. “We are about real and pragmatic actions, and we are proceeding in a practical, effective manner that takes into account the environmental and economic realities that we face.”

That’s not good enough for Catholic environmentalist Simon Appolloni, who teaches religion and environmental ethics at the University of Toronto and Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.

“There was a time when Canada was concerned about more than itself,” said Appolloni in an e-mail. “This present government seems overly concerned with money and maintaining business at all costs, with a myopic vision of being some great oil-producing powerhouse nation in the future.”

Appolloni was also critical of the Canadian bishops for a perceived lack of action. He said he is disturbed that the bishops have said so little about climate change and withheld its signature from the Canadian Interfaith Call for Action and Leadership signed by leaders of more than 60 Canadian faith communities and interfaith organizations last year.

The CCCB says it is working on a document on the environment.

“It’s going through the regular CCCB process for consultation, review and approval, like any other CCCB statement,” said the CCCB communications office. A release date has not been set.

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