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/ 9 May 2011

Route 2050 launch keynote address

Location: St Peter's Eaton Square
Date: 20110509

An impressive coalition of support for action upon climate change is represented here today. But the opinion polls all deliver the same message. Public interest in environmental issues has declined from the level it reached at the time of the passage of the Climate Change Bill. Politicians who see the challenge which faces us all; who are well informed about the action that needs to be taken; cannot get too far ahead of public opinion. Both Mr Cameron and Mr Milliband have demonstrated an awareness of the scale of the adaptation which will be needed as a consequence of climate change but this aspect of public policy played very little part in the recent election campaigns across the UK.

Bishops do not have to stand for election and the Church works on different timescales. The Jubilee 2000 and the Make Poverty History campaigns demonstrated the capacity of the Christian community supported by a coalition of people of goodwill to have an impact on public attitudes. Our determination is to stimulate debate and to open up room for manoeuvre so that sympathetic politicians can advocate the changes which they know to be necessary.

For the sake of the children of St George’s School who have so clearly outlined their hopes for the future and for the sake of children everywhere, we dare not let this matter rest. We hold this earth in trust for generations to come. The Christian Church as a community, which embraces generations past as well as those who are yet to be born, has not developed the policies we shall be discussing this afternoon as a dull echo of a fashionable consensus but because we love the earth which a generous God has given to us and we acknowledge our solidarity with the most vulnerable communities on the face of the earth, those who, even now, are experiencing the first consequences of climate change.

The Church has set out its own seven year plan for responding to climate change in Church and Earth. Our reasons and the action we propose to take as a whole Church are clearly spelt out. Route 2050 is the Diocese of London’s programme of action to achieve the targets set out in Church and Earth. If you are my generation you may have thought that Route 2050 was some sort of sequel to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but I hope that the presentations this afternoon will firmly establish the character and seriousness of this plan of action.

We shall hear about the work going on in many of our schools, parishes and in the Cathedral. We shall be briefed about a new Vicarage in Wembley built to level 6 [the highest possible] of the Code for Sustainable Homes. We are very clear that before pointing out the mote in our brother’s eye we should remove the beam in our own.

I am particularly grateful for the report produced by Arup with the assistance of a grant from the Carbon Trust which examines how churches in London and by extension throughout the country can reduce their carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

I am very grateful to Brian Cuthbertson, our Director of Environmental Challenge in the Diocese who has masterminded this afternoon’s programme. Together with Michael Bye, other colleagues and generous sponsors, Brian has ensured that our rhetoric is being matched by action.

Our three simple mantras in the Diocese of London are “We are taking action on Energy and Carbon; Water and Waste; Wildlife and Biodiversity.”

We are not fair-weather friends in this struggle. The trees have been removed now from Westminster Abbey but we are committed to our long term route map to 2050.

Through our many social action projects the Church does of course share in the general anxiety about the impact of the economic challenges we face and the consequent impact on public expenditure. But in the last analysis the economy is a totally owned subsidiary of the environment and we should not forget the imperative to mitigate and adapt to climate change as an integral part of our commitment to Jesus Christ and our partnership in the gospel.

About Richard Chartres

The Rt Revd Richard Chartres KCVO was the 132nd Bishop of London from November 1995 until March 2017.

Read more from Richard Chartres

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