‘Moral responsibility’ to tackle climate change, says Lord Deben

The Chair of the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, has said we have “been careless with God’s creation” and have moral responsibility to act on climate change.


The Conservative peer and former Environment Secretary made his remarks in a webinar hosted by the Catholic Union on the Gospel imperative for tackling climate change.


Lord Deben said that the Pope’s Encyclical, Laudato Si, had helped to bring environmental concerns to people’s attention – including people who aren’t Catholic. He also said that it had helped to enliven the younger generation in the teaching of the Church.


Lord Deben said he traced his interest in the environment to his father – an Anglican clergyman – who stressed that humans are stewards of creation. Now as a Catholic convert, Lord Deben finds strong arguments to act on climate change based on Catholic Social Teaching.


He harked back to a speech he wrote for Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister, which included the line: “We don’t hold the world freehold, but on a full repairing lease” and said those words continue to be relevant today.


Looking ahead to the COP 26 summit in Glasgow later this year, he said that there was a “very small window” for stopping further temperature rises. He also stressed that the poor were suffering the most as a result of climate change and called for a “just transition” towards a carbon neutral economy to prevent widening inequality.


Lord Deben also highlighted examples where climate change was intensifying religious persecution, including in Nigeria where less land for harvesting was leading to conflict between Christians and other religious groups.


He described cutting spending on international development from 0.7% to 0.5% as a “moral outrage” and said he was “ashamed” of the lack of opposition to the decision.


Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker, comments: “This was an excellent talk. I’m extremely grateful to Lord Deben and to everyone who took part in the webinar. For a talk on tackling climate change and reducing emissions, a virtual event was perhaps appropriate.


“It was wonderful to hear from someone who has such strong convictions in faith and in the need for action on climate change. With the UK hosting two major summits this year in the form of the G7 and COP 26, this was a very timely talk. It’s clear that the Church has a great deal to contribute to this debate, not least through Pope’s Encyclical, Laudato Si, and the broader tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.”


A recording of the talk can be found here.