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Australian churches off the pace on clean energy switch

  • 09 September 2016


With the grip of climate change tightening around the planet, few seem to understand the urgency of the climate crisis we are facing. This is why the announcement on 1 September of over 3500 churches in the UK switching to clean, green power is so significant.

At last, a solution is presented by religious communities that matches the scale of the problem. At last, they are providing the kind of leadership for the needed transition to an ecologically sustainable future.

Dubbed the Big Church Switch, around 2000 parishes from 16 Catholic dioceses are switching entirely to renewable energy. The dioceses made their decisions following the publication of Pope Francis' environmental encyclical Laudato Si', and made the decisions public on the day named by Francis as a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The number also includes the majority of the Salvation Army's UK sites, a third of Britain's Quaker Meeting Houses and hundreds of Church of England, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Church parishes. They have signed up individually through the bigchurchswitch.org.uk website promoted by the charities Christian Aid and Tearfund.

If actions speak louder than words, the announcement is a whole-hearted shout.

For decades, formal statements issued by prominent religious leaders have quietly but unmistakably been charged with a sense of urgency. Francis wrote, for example, 'Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony and disdain'; and that 'Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world'.

The majority of climate scientists would agree. An extraordinary number of extreme weather records have been set in the last year, with 2015 the warmest year on record by a significant margin and 2016 set to beat that record. Globally, this July was the warmest month ever.

It is no coincidence that Cyclone Winston, which battered Fiji in February, was the fiercest Pacific storm system ever to hit landfall. Credible advocates such as Ian Dunlop, former head of the Australian Coal Association, are promoting the term 'climate emergency' to reflect the seriousness of the threat.


"The majority of faith-based organisations in Australia continue to have investments in fossil fuel extraction and it remains a minority of them which are using clean energy."


Until now, some of the best examples of the churches providing real leadership have been decisions by over 200 faith-based organisations to divest from fossil fuels and/or reinvest in low carbon technology. Decisions by the