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UN Conference on Climate Change

House of Bishops' statement on climate change

On November 30th, at least 147 Heads of State and Government will gather in Paris for a ten-day summit to discuss the critical issue of climate change.  This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Climate change is an issue that affects all of us, and is one that each of us can so something about.  It is of critical urgency in our Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia where our sisters and brothers in the Pacific are already affected by loss of homes, land and income.

The House of Bishops in our Province have issued the following statement:


For the sake of all people and other species on Earth, we pray for an ambitious, fair, and legally binding agreement to be reached at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris this December. 

As Christians we believe that “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”  Teeming with abundant life and magnificant diversity, the symphony of creation gives glory to its Creator. We believe that God is reconciling to himself not only human beings but “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” through Jesus Christ.  

The Earth is God’s gift to humanity and to all creatures. In unity with Pope Francis we “forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”  As humans endowed with reason we are not the controllers and possessors of nature but its servants, just as we are servants of each other and of God. We affirm this in the mission statement of the Anglican Church, which commits us to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” 

Sadly, however, we are failing to live up to this calling. There is no longer any doubt that human activity has upset the delicate balance of physical and ecological systems upon which all life depends, and we are beginning to reap what we have sown. Air and water are becoming polluted, and the soil depleted. The ocean is becoming more acidic. The food chain is being compromised. Species are dying, and the climate is changing.

In particular, climate change threatens to undermine the health, prosperity and social stability of all nations. Unchecked, it will precipitate food shortages, conflict, and forced migration on a global scale. 

Already the impacts of climate change are being acutely felt in the South Pacific. This year we have witnessed firsthand the devastation that climate change will visit upon our region through more intense cyclones, severe storm surges, saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion, and the bleaching of corals. 

Jesus teaches us to love our neighbour and especially to show practical love to the poor and vulnerable, declaring that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  In this spirit, we believe that the needs of the Pacific Islands and other communities acutely vulnerable to climate impacts should set the terms for what is agreed at the Paris climate negotiations.

Therefore, we urge the representatives of New Zealand and of all nations at the Paris climate negotiations to work intently to secure a legally binding international agreement that limits global average temperature increase to below 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels by requiring rapid and deep decarbonisation.  

Mitigating the worst effects of climate change is achievable if we act collectively and immediately. We have hope that a more sustainable and more just world can be created through strong and urgent global action. May God be with the delegates to the Paris climate negotiations in their vital work. 

The pounamu cross shown here was gifted by Bishop Helen-Ann to Bishop Graham Usher, the Bishop of Dudley in the Diocese of Worcester, UK.  Bishop Graham and Bishop Helen-Ann were both participants in the 2015 Canterbury course for Bishops in early years of episcopal ministry.  Bishop Graham, an ecologist by training, is one of the Church of England's environmental bishops.  He will travel to Paris to join a group from the Church of England who have walked in pilgrimage to be present during the Climate summit, and is taking the cross made in our Diocese (at Te Kauwhata) and blessed in the waters of the Waikato river with him to Paris.

(Photo thanks to +Graham @bishopdudley).

Story Published: 27th of November - 2015

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