Theo Hobson Theo Hobson

Justin Welby is missing a trick on climate change

Justin Welby urges us, echoing Deuteronomy, to ‘choose life’, so that our children may live. It is an apt use of scripture, in the face of the climate emergency. But his performance on Radio 4 this morning was far from impressive.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the need for ‘meaningful sacrifices’, but when asked which ones he was making he sounded a bit muddled, as if he was not ready for such an obvious question. His first answer was ‘recycling and all that’, a locution with an air of irritation, like a man too often nagged to take the bins out. 

Can’t Lambeth Palace afford daily sausages?

Asked about meat, he said he had cut down, but mainly for health and financial reasons. (Can’t Lambeth Palace afford daily sausages?) Then he spoke about the Church’s gradual divestment from the extractive industries: make me carbon-free, Lord, but not yet.

The Church is missing a trick. Maybe the trick of its life. It has the potential to do something that is good for the climate, and for its own image. It can model a new culture of voluntary restraint. And it can show how a new approach to consumption can be culturally enriching.

Imagine if the bishops had the guts, and imagination, to issue a statement along these lines:

‘We suggest that Anglicans refrain from eating meat on weekdays. As well as helping reduce carbon emissions, this would help us to appreciate our food more, and deepen our connection with the natural world. We take too much for granted: let us learn to be more grateful. 

‘Of course this is not a hard-and-fast rule. The very first Christians opposed dietary rules, and so we should be wary of implying that any dietary decision is somehow more godly.

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