Columban Director joins Church leaders’ lobby of UK government on fossil fuels

Columban Director in Britain, Fr. John Boles has joined more than 50 Catholic and Anglican Bishops, and around 500 Church leaders in total, and signed a letter to the UK government this week calling for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to tackle the cost of living crisis and energy efficiency measures to reduce heating bills.

Fr. John Boles explains, “Columban Missionaries have always been at the forefront of the struggle to protect both the planet and its most vulnerable inhabitants. This is why we fully support this campaign to boost investment in renewable energy while at the same time protecting the poor from the effects of fuel price rises. The war in Ukraine must not be used as an excuse to weaken or abandon policies aimed at controlling global warming.”

Ahead of the Government’s Spring Statement and Energy Security Strategy, the letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak called on them to use these opportunities to tackle the climate emergency and address the cost of living crisis. The letter says: “We call on you to use the Spring Statement to provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK. These measures would reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security.”

Signatories included the lead environment bishops for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Bishop John Arnold of Salford, and the Church of England, Rt Rev Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich, and the Catholic Church in Scotland, Archbishop William Nolan of Glasgow. Church leaders from across the country have signed the letter including leaders of the Methodist Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union, Quakers and Jesuits in Britain, among others.

They urged the Government to implement a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to address the cost of living. They wrote: “The Spring Statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments. The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C. New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years. We urge you to increase support for vulnerable households across the UK facing a cost of living crisis as a result of increasing food and energy prices, through measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.”

They added that many Churches have set a 2030 target for reducing their emissions to net zero: “Many of our Churches have set 2030 net zero targets and are taking action to decarbonise our buildings, including through the installation of solar panels, heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures. More than 2,000 churches across the UK participated in Climate Sunday ahead of COP26 and called on the UK Government to unleash a clean energy revolution and limit global heating to 1.5°C.”

A number of other charities have supported the statement, including CAFOD. Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, said: “This statement next week comes at a crucial time for the world’s energy industry. It’s never been more clear, nor more urgent, that we need a just transition to a low carbon economy. For the world’s poor, access to energy is a matter of survival. For humanity to be sustainable, all of our energy must come from renewable sources if we are to have any chance of protecting our common home for all of our sakes. The time to finally move away from fossil fuels is now, we hope the government with all its power and resources will lead by example to make this ground-breaking transition a reality.”

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