WHILE the Bible is replete with references to environmental catastrophes – earthquakes, floods and various pestilences – and Christian denominations are frequently in the vanguard of debate about social issues such as poverty, anti-war demonstrations and LGBT rights, climate change seems to be less frequently at the top of the agenda. 

Recently however, The United Church of Christ became the first Christian body in the US to formally endorse the environmental protection legislation sponsored in the House of Representatives by Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. On Monday Ocasio-Cortez and a group of US lawmakers that include the 2020 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders proposed to declare the climate crisis an official emergency.

‘Let Justice Roll Down — Declaring Support for the Green New Deal and Affirming the Intersectionality of Climate Justice with all Justice Issues,’ a resolution endorsing the Green New Deal, passed 662-30 last month at the UCC’s General Synod.

Also, according to the UCC, which has some 5,000 churches mostly in the north-east and mid-west of the country, it is the first denomination to call for divestment from fossil fuels.

The Green New Deal was introduced in the House of Representatives in February by Ocasio-Cortez and aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, build smart power grids, update buildings to be more efficient and train workers for jobs in a new green economy over the next 10 years.

In 2015 Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment, described by a New Scientist  journalist as “a bit like a memo from head office informing regional managers about the boss’s latest thinking. It isn’t an instruction but is guidance that you are well advised to heed”.

With 1.3 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, his call for rapid action on environmental destruction and biodiversity loss might well have had a positive effect, though one that is difficult to gauge.

Closer to home, Christians with an environmental conscience have the option of joining a church affiliated to Eco-Congregation Scotland, an ecumenical organisation based in Edinburgh but supported by churches throughout the country and with its own Climate Change Officer in Adrian Shaw, who has been a director of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and is a member of the World Council of Churches climate change working group.