Climate Action receives the support of Synod

The recent Synod of the Diocese of Melbourne endorsed a motion for the Diocese to create a Climate Change Climate Mitigation Officer. The motion which was put by the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Reverend Dr Andreas Loewe, was passed 341 votes in favour.

The motion followed from the Cathedral’s experience in taking practical steps to reduce our own carbon footprint as well as engaging our congregation in Climate Advocacy through our teaching and preaching series.

Speaking to the motion, the Dean said:

“This new role will work with Parishes to develop best practice at a local level to reduce carbon emissions and create opportunities for missional engagement with the local community, encourage the creation of spaces that are sustainable within our churches as well as help parishes develop new ministries that respond to the crisis we face.”

Dr Andreas Loewe in speaking to the Motion

The Synod also noted the passing of a motion at the National General Synod which encouraged dioceses and agencies of the Anglican Church of Australia to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

The motion was moved by the Dean, and second by The Revd Canon John Sanderson, Vicar of St George’s East Ivanhoe and Canon to the Archbishop.

You can read the Dean’s speech to Synod below.

Movers Speech: The Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe

‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’, the writer of the Psalms tells and Paul echoes in his first epistle to the Corinthians. God made this world, and his creation belongs to him, not to humans. Our human role is that of a steward of God’s good creation, exercising accountable stewardship under God, whose rule alone, Scripture affirms, is sovereign.

In turn for taking care of God’s creation, Scripture promises, God’s good creation will supply our needs. But that fragile equilibrium has been broken, and the consequences God’s people face are potentially catastrophic. Particularly on a continent like ours, where we already experience extreme weather events, these events will become even more extreme. In our greedy extraction of resources and our failure to safeguard God’s creation, we have sinned.

Scripture tells us that there is a way out of sin. Metanoia—repentance. Turning away from our past behaviours and turning our lives God-wards. Repentance is active and requires action. We know what we need to do—this motion rehearses Chapter and Verse of the GS’s Environment Canon in 2007, and GS’s setting concrete net zero emissions targets in 2022; notes the work of our own SRC here in Melbourne. We note the clarion call for action of the ACC in 2019, and members will be well aware of the recent Lambeth Call on the Environment and Sustainable Development. We have been here before.

In fact, we discussed this matter last year. In the past twelve months, we have seen how it is the most vulnerable in our society who suffer most under our inaction: communities in regional NSW and South Qld received 60% of the annual rainfall within three days in February. People’s farms and businesses destroyed, homes and churches flooded, tens of thousands evacuated, and little progress in rebuilding communities.

Had this year been an El Nino year, we would probably have experienced the reverse effect: extreme heat leading to extreme bushfires. I don’t need to remind us, here in Victoria, of the terrible effects of the Black Summer fires in 2020, which engulfed Mallacoota, burning more than 1.5 million hectares in reginal Victoria, killing or displacing 2 billion animals. Nor do I need to remind members of the 55 days of 40 degree or more temperatures in central Australia, that made life unendurable—especially for our First Nations Communities.

We will need to work swiftly in order to make radical changes to the way we consume energy and use our properties to generate it. We need to give guidance to our parishes on how to implement renewable energy generation measures, such as solar harvesting; or energy efficiency measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we need to give support to our parishes to develop ministries that serve the most vulnerable in our communities.

Elderly people on pensions are amongst the hundreds of thousands of Australians who experience or are at risk of energy poverty as a result of increasing energy prices due to climate change. Many have been forced to ration their energy use to the detriment of their wellbeing and quality of life. Similarly, for young people climate change is a significant source of anxiety and fear, as was highlighted at a climate forum here at St Paul’s and the recent Archbishop’s Conversation at MGS.

What positive action will we take to provide safe havens in our churches? What ministries will we develop that are heated in the winter and has air conditioning during the summer? What kids’ programs, old people’s lunch clubs, Bible studies, enquirer courses will we be running? And how will be resource them locally?

We believe that we need to create a staff position to help us. The Climate Change Mitigation Project Officer will help develop best practice at a local level to reduce carbon emissions and create opportunities for missional engagement with the local community. They should help encourage the creation of spaces that are sustainable within our churches as well as help parishes develop new ministries that respond to the crisis we face.

Making our engine-houses for ministry—Churches, Halls and Vicarages—sustainable; particularly for the vulnerable: elderly and young people. Preparing and resourcing our parishes use this crisis for the ministries that will bring people into friendship with God and change their lives and living—so that God’s creation may be there for future generations to experience his goodness, grace and love.

I commend this motion to you. The seconder, Canon Sanderson, reserves his right to speak.