Skip To Content

MP challenges faith groups on climate change

By Elin Goulden

About 40 people from a wide variety of faith communities gathered at Bloordale United Church on May 12 to hear Kirsty Duncan, MP for Etobicoke North, speak about climate change and how people can work together to address it. The event, titled “Together in Faith: Working for Action on Climate Change,” was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Toronto and by the Green Awakening Network of the Toronto United Church Council.

Dr. Duncan, a geologist, is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for her work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She is also the Liberal representative on the All-Party Climate Change Caucus, an organization that brings top scientists to speak to parliamentarians on the issue.

Dr. Duncan spoke passionately and eloquently about the urgent challenge posed by climate change. On a recent visit to Bangladesh, she had asked 10-year-old children in the street what she should tell Canadians about climate change. “Tell them to come here and they will taste climate change,” they answered. Rising sea levels have already affected Bangladesh’s water supplies, so that the drinking water now carries the unmistakable tang of salt. Although Bangladesh produces less greenhouse gas emission than the city of Manhattan, it stands to lose 20 per cent of its total land mass if average global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius. Humans would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by the year 2050 to keep the rise in global average temperature below 2 degrees.

Stories like these confirm that climate change is not a partisan issue: it is a humanitarian issue, and it is urgent. As such, it should be of primary concern to us as people of faith and compassion. Dr. Duncan highlighted several ways in which people of faith can make their voices heard. She is a strong proponent of the Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change, a document whose signatories include Archbishop Fred Hiltz and others.

Several Anglican churches have already signed petitions in support of this document. Dr. Duncan reminded her audience that every time 25 names are gathered on a petition, it gives the MP sponsoring that petition an opportunity to speak in the House of Commons on the issue.  Thus, presenting several petitions of 25 to 50 names gives the issue of climate change much more exposure than one petition with 10,000 names. If one’s own MP refuses to present the petition, it can be submitted to another MP who will agree to do so, she said.

Dr. Duncan also encouraged people to make their views known to their MPs through phone calls, personal letters and face-to-face meetings. She encouraged churches to host roundtables on climate change and invite their local MPs to speak. She underscored the importance of inviting members of the press to cover such events, both to put public pressure on the MP and to emphasize our commitment as people of faith to addressing the issue of climate change.

A lively discussion followed Dr. Duncan’s talk, moderated by Ron Ewart of the Green Awakening Network. Many participants also signed the petition in support of the Interfaith Call for Action and Leadership on Climate Change. If you haven’t already signed this petition, a copy of it is available here. For assistance in getting further involved in climate change advocacy, contact the Diocesan Environmental Working Group or the Social Justice and Advocacy Consultant Murray MacAdam, at .

Elin Goulden is the Parish Outreach Facilitator for York-Credit Valley and a member of the Diocesan Environmental Working Group.