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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 04:48

United on climate change

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Prior to taking part in a public forum entitled 'Australian Religious perspectives on climate change' Sister Geraldine Kearney joined prominent Anglican, Jewish and Buddhist leaders at the Parliament House meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Other leaders from Hindu, Uniting Church, Jewish, Sikh, Baha'i, Buddhist, Catholic, Jain, and Anglican religions also visited a number of MPs to share their concerns.

Sister Geraldine said at the meeting with Ms Gillard the group expressed their support for strong action on climate change, including a carbon tax.

"We congratulated the Prime Minister on her stand to put a price on carbon but insisted it should be only one of a number of measures to bring down emissions. We also expressed concern that Australia is not doing enough to finance adaptation in developing countries."

Anglican representative, Bishop George Browning, retired Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra/Goulburn told the Prime Minister that caring for the environment was at the core of all faiths.

He said that as a wealthy country Australia could afford a carbon tax, while ensuring low income households are protected from undue hardship.

"Indeed we cannot afford not to act when the stakes are so high. We are talking about our grandchildren's future and that of the poor. If we believe the best science available, we are talking about nothing less than the future of life on earth."

Bishop Browning said that the religious perspective is that our well-being is more about a sustainable relationship with our environment and others with whom we share the planet.

"It is not about economic growth, our capacity to consume or minimising costs of taking responsible action."

Sister Geraldine said the Prime Minister could agree with the delegation up to a point, telling the group: "Australia first needs to set up a mechanism to cut emissions, then we can have a discussion about what more and what else."

At the evening forum Bishop Browning's paper was warmly received by a full house at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. Respondents were Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Shadow Minister, Greg Hunt, and Dr Janette Lindesay, a climate scientist. There was unanimity among all the speakers that climate change is real and requires us to reduce our emissions.

Earlier in May Sister Geraldine led a 'Congregational Pacific Connections Forum' involving representatives from a number of different religious congregations. Held at St Scholastica's College, Glebe Point in Sydney, the purpose of the forum was to share experiences, concerns and hopes for Pacific neighbours in terms of climate change.

The opening session of the evening focused on a short film, "Kiribati, Cry to the World", produced in by Nei Linda Wan in Kiribati, and launched at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, (UNFCCC) at Cancun in Mexico in 2010. This film presented a moving case study of the Republic of Kiribati, featuring some of the imminent dangers and challenges being faced by this Pacific community.

Ms Maria Tiimon, Pacific Outreach Officer for Pacific Calling Partnership, spoke passionately of her first hand experience of the affects of climate change already evident on many of the atolls in Kiribati, other members of  AOSIS ( Alliance of Small Island States) and  other low-lying island states such as Bangladesh, and the Maldives.

Sister Geraldine said lively and robust discussion in small groups followed, focusing on present concerns and possible steps that would help strategise a path ahead for passionate and targeted action.

"We hope to form a core group that will action some steps for future networking and strategic planning as an outcome of the Forum and facilitate on-going networking and action."