Last week, Pope Francis issued the Laudato Si, where he warned that humanity is failing in its God-given role to be responsible stewards of the Earth. He challenged global leaders to work together to tackle what he calls an “ecological crisis”.
Prof Dutney praised Pope Francis for his moral call to action and said it was encouraging to see a global church leader adopt a firm stance on climate change action.
“We stand with Pope Francis’s call for ‘a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet’ and to wealthy nations to take their share of the responsibility to urgently curb their emissions,” Prof Dutney said.
“As long as we remain prepared to abuse the atmosphere and entire ecosystems for the sake of short-term economic gain for a few, we undermine our own future and further condemn millions already living in poverty.
“There can be no security for humanity without a healthy planet.”
In his encyclical, Pope Francis called on the world’s richest nations to pay their “ecological debt” to those living in poverty. He criticised a culture of indifference and consumption which has seen the poorest communities in the world disproportionally affected by human-induced climate change.
Prof Dutney urged Australia’s political leaders to heed the Pope’s call to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“As one of the world’s major producers of greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis, Australia must acknowledge that it has a responsibility to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.
“Many of our Pacific neighbours are already feeling the devastating effects on climate change – we must do all we can to help them.”
Extreme weather events are wreaking havoc on countries throughout the Pacific. Cyclone Pam, which struck Vanuatu earlier this year, was the most intense cyclone in the country’s history and left approximately 75,000 people in need of emergency shelter.
Pacific Island nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are facing inundation because of rising sea levels. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of losing their homes and becoming ‘climate refugees’.
Churches are an influential agent of change in many Pacific Islander countries, with approximately 90 per cent of people in the region identifying themselves as Christian.
The Uniting Church, through UnitingWorld, is working with partner churches throughout the Pacific to educate, support and prepare communities for the impacts of climate change.
UnitingWorld’s ‘Leadership in a Changing Climate’ project will help communities complete disaster risk assessments and empower them to become advocates for climate justice. The project will also help families access pastoral care and trauma counselling.
You can find out how you can support the ‘Leadership in a Changing Climate’ project here.