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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 05:17

Talking about the carbon tax

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Since Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the introduction of a carbon tax in late February 2011 there has been much debate on the pros and cons of the policy.

Across the country, there have been anti-carbon tax rallies and ones in favour of the initiative.  The Opposition has taken the opportunity to capitalise on people's fears of a rise in household costs despite the fact that the government has said it will compensate low income earners.

Some in the community are prepared to wear an increase in the cost of power, gas and food to do something to reduce our nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Others reject climate change outright and are angry that they may be financially affected.

So where do Religious fit in the debate?

At our National Assembly last year, involving more than 100 leaders of religious congregations and institutes, representing more than 8,000 Religious men and women, we focused on the topic of ecology and following Jesus.

In his keynote address, Father Denis Edwards, who has written extensively on science and theology, outlined the ecological depths at the heart of Christian faith.

He said that, as Christians, our ultimate meaning is found with us in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  "Like Jesus we are called to find God in the experience of the boundless beauty of the natural world, and in the enduring, life-long, commitment to the earth and to its creatures."

Father Edwards said that we are in the process of destroying much of what we have come to treasure as a gift of God and a way of God's self-revelation.  "So we have to be partners with God in the future that is created. This world matters and it matters to God and it matters to Jesus."

Another voice at our National Assembly was Senator Christine Milne, Deputy Leader of the Greens.

Senator Milne's message to religious leaders was to start conversations in communities around Australia on the values of caring for creation.

"Essentially this is our job: to look after creation," Senator Milne said.  "As religious leaders you are central to helping the science of climate change by introducing an ethical framework to help people examine the issues."

She suggested Pope John Paul II's commentary on the Earth Charter as a great basis for discussion.

"If we can elevate the Earth Charter as a document that faith communities can use to discuss caring for the earth and climate change then we will be helping people to work out what we ought to do."

With some people fearful that the introduction of a carbon tax will result in Australians being 'worse off', Senator Milne encouraged Religious to initiate discussions around what this means.

"Is working long hours to support a lifestyle, spending hours in traffic, having no time to spend with your children, and being defined by what you look like 'better off'?

"The key thing is helping people to redefine themselves not by what they have or what they look like but on who they are and what they contribute," Senator Milne said.

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) has commented that they would like to see the introduction of a suite of measures to ensure a speedy transition from Australia's heavy reliance on fossil fuels to the widespread use of renewable energy sources.

Dr Megan Clark, CSIRO chief, has supported the carbon price policy but like ARRCC has said we also need sustainable technologies that will take us into a low carbon future and to change our behaviours.

"Global warming is one of the most challenging issues facing humanity," Dr Clark said. "So it does need careful consideration and it does need debate."

As Religious in Australia, we need to join in that debate and take up Christine Milne's suggestion to start conversations on climate change in communities.

While many Religious are already very involved in organisations focused on caring for creation here and in the Pacific, others of us need to learn more about the issues from scientific, theological and justice perspectives.  At CRA we will continue to provide links and resources to articles, information and reflections on the subject.

In educating ourselves we will be taking up Denis Edwards' challenge to be partners with God in the future that is created. We will also be answering the call of Pope Benedict XVI who said: "...It is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen 'that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying'."

Sister Annette Cunliffe RSC
National Council
Catholic Religious Australia

 

Pathways, May 2011