Who we are

CCA Court 31.05.16a

Who we are:

Christian Climate Action is a community of Christians supporting each other in following Jesus Christ in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, in acts of non-violent direct action. We are based in the UK.

Below are some words we came up with at our meeting in June 2016 to describe what we are trying to do.  They are not set in stone, or ‘right’, simply an attempt to explain why we do what we do.

Purpose of CCA:

  1.  To demonstrate urgency and scale of climate crisis
  2.  To inspire Christians to act
  3.  To use our actions to speak to and challenge the wider environmental movement to move towards non-violent direct action.
  4.  To challenge all Christians to question their cooperation with the system in which we live – and to suggest to them that to be a Christian might mean non-compliance with ruling authorities.
  5.  To demonstrate that we are not living under a real democracy, but a type of corporate fascism.

The sort of thing we think:

  1.  We are called to be faithful, not successful.
  2.  But we try to be as successful as possible – catastrophe may only be averted by a movement of mass civil disobedience.
  3.  Our actions don’t have to be perfect.  They are all ‘experiments with truth’ (Gandhi)
  4.  We are ourselves part of the problem we are fighting. (‘We must contend against evil, even though we know that we are ourselves involved in the evil against which we contend.’ Reinhold Niebuhr). Our liturgies include a confession of this involvement.  Our actions, and any prison/fine, can be seen as an act of penance or paying the price for the sin we are all part of.
  5.  We must not mislead people by telling them that doing CCA actions will fix climate change.  Our comfort must not come from lies, but from the love of God and the resurrection – therefore we have to embrace crucifixion.
  6. We always try to be non-violent.  We like Turning the Tide’s non-violent characteristics listed at the bottom of this page.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE? – CCA at Greenbelt 2016

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Caroline from CCA will be speaking on a panel at Greenbelt this year.

The discussion is advertised as follows:

Saturday 27th at 6.45pm in the Treehouse venue.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE: CLIMATE CHANGE KNOWS NO BORDERS
Bill McKibben, Caroline Harmon, Tom Viita, Steve Baker

Can we really cooperate to fight the ravages of climate change? And now that the UK faces Brexit, will the good things that the EU has done on climate care be lost? Do NGOs and campaigning organisations show the way forward rather than states and governments anyway?

With 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Caroline Harmon from Christian Climate Action, Tom Viita, Senior UK Political Advisor with Christian Aid, Steve Baker, Greenbelt Chair and green investor.
Chaired by Hannah Scott-Joynt.

Panels conversations and debates at Greenbelt 2016

We’ll add more info after the event.

Phil’s defence statement

Phil’s defence, that he gave at Hammersmith Magistrate’s court on 31st May, 2016, based primarily upon Lawful Excuse, Section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act.

Phil prayingI am before this court charged with criminal damage. I stand here first of all as a grandparent. Since the birth of my eldest grandchild 16 years ago, I have studied the causes of climate change and other aspects of the destruction of the Earth. I am deeply disturbed by what the vast majority of scientists are predicting with regard to the Earth which will be inherited by my grandchildren’s generation and the generations which follow them. Not to do all that I can to prevent what is currently predicted would be to participate in great harm to them. I think it reasonable to regard the harm being done as criminal damage at a worldwide level.

I also come here as a Roman Catholic Christian. There are three aspects of the destruction caused by climate change which I regard as integral to my faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. a) The first is the depletion and extinction of life-forms. The current geological era is witnessing the largest extinction of life since the time of the dinosaurs. This extinction is human-made and is exacerbated by climate change. I believe that all life-forms are God’s creation and therefore to be regarded with care and respect. b) The second is that the people most affected by climate change are those who are poor, who do not receive a fair share of what God has given for everyone. A central aspect of Catholic Social Teaching is that they are especially close to God’s heart. The extremes of weather which are being experienced are taking more and more of their lives. There is a likelihood that these lost lives become statistics rather than persons, especially when they occur in parts of the world which are distant from us. For this reason I would like to show the court two photographs.

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Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan take part in a religious procession in Tolosa, on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte, 18 November 2013. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP. The Guardian.

The first is of a funeral procession for a person killed when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. Shock and grief are etched on their faces. The second is of a woman holding a placard after the damage done by Hurricane Katrina in the United States. The placard says ‘Honouring those still missing’. There is a beautiful aspect of these photographs, namely the human act of honouring our dead. There is also something deeply poignant because it is possible that these deaths could have been prevented if we all had acted more determinedly and sooner. I find it very painful to acknowledge my own part in not doing that. c) The third aspect concerns our descendants and those who follow them. They too are regarded as close to God’s heart because they are the most powerless of all. Their well-being depends upon what we do to leave them a sustainable Earth.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/culturesubculture/

These three aspects of injustice are regularly referred to by Pope Francis. I believe that I am called to respond to each of them. My implementation of this calling has many inadequacies, ones which I continually seek God’s grace to overcome.

For all of the reasons which I have referred to, I regard it as essential that we do what we can to keep fossil-fuels in the ground.

In the 5 months before our action at DECC, the Secretary of State made many statements of concern about climate change. At the same time she and her colleagues rescinded a large number of policy decisions which previously had been reducing CO2 emissions. I will mention 3 of them:

  • 18th June, she excluded new onshore wind farms from a subsidy scheme a year earlier than had been planned.
  • 8th July, budget changes reduced the incentive to buy low-emission vehicles.
  • 10th July, the plan for new homes to be zero-carbon was ended.

I felt disturbed by the discrepancy between the words and deeds of Government Ministers. I also experienced despair in relation to the pending Paris conference where the UK’s leadership role seemed to be losing credibility. The promises made by governments before the Paris Climate Change talks still left the Earth on a trajectory towards an increase in temperature of at least 2.7 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Please note that this figure is three times the current increase. The levels of suffering which are predicted have been spelled out by a World Bank report called ‘Turn down the Heat: Why we must avoid a 4 degree C rise in temperature’. The contents hardly bear thinking about, but think we must. This opening few days of the Paris conference were for me a crucial time for hope to be regained by a real commitment to keep fossil-fuels in the ground.

My experience is that it is very difficult to obtain an honest discussion with politicians about climate change and other aspects of the destruction of the Earth; and particularly so if I seek to relate these issues to the workings of the economy. A recurring question to myself is ‘what do I do when I am not represented in the way in which I expect a citizen to be represented?’ I have come to the conclusion that direct action is necessary, both to contribute to life and to retain a semblance of integrity. I am also aware that many of the great developments in human rights have come about partly because of actions outside the power structures of the time. Within most religions, there is an honourable and long-standing tradition of acting upon conscience rather than upon law, and if necessary practising civil disobedience. Whilst breaking the law should never be done lightly, if it seems the only way left to me of avoiding injustice or danger for others, I am willing to do it. I regard the situation with regard to the seriousness and urgency of climate change as having similarities with those of slavery, apartheid, the US Civil Rights Campaign and the dictatorship of the Marcos regime in the Philippines, in all of which Christians played a part in helping valuable changes to occur.

What did I hope to achieve by this action?

This action was taken in the first days of the Paris conference within which the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State were to contribute. The urgency for action was immediate because the extremes of weather associated with climate change are already taking the lives of people and other life forms, and are seriously affecting the property and livelyhoods of many people. I wanted to point to DECC and the Government as causing danger instead of avoiding it. My hope was that this public act would make clear that a much greater commitment by our Government within the Paris talks towards keeping fossil fuels in the ground and replacing them with renewable energy was essential; and that they still had the opportunity to do that.

Doing our best to prevent unnecessary deaths is, I believe, an integral aspect of our humanity.

I regard my actions as reasonable and proportionate because other ways of trying to influence Government policy which I had tried had clearly not resulted in the policies which are necessary to prevent death and damage to property and loss of livelyhoods. Our behaviour towards others who we met during this action was, I believe, respectful and peaceful. We tidied up the area after taking our action, made no attempt to avoid arrest and cooperated with the police when they arrived.

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There is no stopping them! Phil, Westley and Martin holding banners to the road in the pouring rain moments before their trial.

Much of my 35 years campaigning has been with the Catholic overseas aid agency, CAFOD. Many of the campaigns which CAFOD initiates relate to injustices arising from the activities of corporations or international trade and economic organisations (such as the International Monetary Fund in relation to the debts of the poorer countries). During the earlier years of my campaigning with CAFOD, there were substantial differences between political parties and their policies. In that sense, I experienced support from opposition parties. In general, those differences have been steadily eroded by a positioning of all major parties around the centre right. The opposition to the Government of the day has increasingly become vested in a plethora of NGOs which, while vitally important, need the support of politicians if their aims are to be achieved. Many of us who are involved in campaigning are disturbed by this increasing absence of representation. Corporate power has steadily developed a hold over political institutions during this time. This process pervades policy-making in relation to climate change where fossil-fuel companies (and financial corporations which invest in these), hold considerable power in relation to political institutions. This power, taken together with the reduction of meaningful representation, has led to a Democratic Deficit in countries across the world. Thus whilst a basic principle of democratic political systems is that they enable widespread participation in power by citizens, in practice the lobbying power of corporations increasingly subverts this principle. Pope Francis often notes how economic power subverts democracy. Meeting with members of the US Congress last December he said ‘If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.’ In addition to this structural democratic deficit, I experience a personal one in philrelation to my own MP. This arises because he does not accept the science of the human causation of climate change and at the same time is either not able or not willing to give me the evidence upon which he bases his position. (I had written to my MP 2 weeks before the trial to ask if he would be willing to confirm that what I saying was true. He replied, but did not refer to this request. I had copies available of this correspondence but the judge did not ask to see them).

Helen’s statement in court

This is my legal argument in court; for more about my motivation, see my previous post here.


We were taking part in a small, peaceful protest, and what we did was reasonable under the circumstance, therefore it was not criminal damage. I’m going to outline what the circumstances were, and why I feel that our actions under these circumstances were reasonable.

 

  1. The circumstances

Climate change – is the biggest threat to our country and global society we face. It’s not about trees and polar bears, somewhere far away in time and space; it is already affecting global health and agriculture, and is affecting the world’s most vulnerable people badly today. It impacts all areas of society – security, the economy, health, migration, agriculture, trade – and is worsening and becoming harder and costlier to deal with the longer we take to act. It is increasingly costing real, human lives, and sending global society into serious imbalances and undermining our future as a country.

Paris summit – The day we took our action was the first day of the Paris climate talks, at which our government were talking the talk about tackling climate change and committing us as a country to action – whilst at the same time, rolling back the policies at home that would allow this to be possible. This is stunningly hypocritical and demonstrates there is nothing but, at best, wishful thinking behind our talk, and this is the example we leave for other countries.

Government backtracking – the DECC is responsible for policy directly related to energy and climate change. We hear fine words about taking climate change seriously when it suits government rhetoric, but the actual policies coming out of DECC have been a systematic dismantling of support for renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, sustainable development and the green economy, whilst support for fossil fuels, like fracking, and new money for oil, gas and even old coal power, and climate-damaging infrastructure like airport expansion has increased. We cannot say we take climate change seriously and commit to cutting emissions if we at the same time cut all the measures that would make it possible.

Democratic deficit – You could ask why we didn’t for example hold a banner, or have a protest. But this is far from our first action – I personally have been campaigning for over a decade on this, and others have even longer, but it seems the message of the urgency and importance of real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions is not getting through in conventional ways, and hence the need for a bit of drama. The majority of the public want action on climate change, and support renewable energy in some way, and are against fracking. We’ve marched, we’ve petitioned, we’ve written to MPs, we’ve written to ministers, we’ve met our MPs and lobbied, we’ve campaigned and voted in the election, we’ve moved investments and supported businesses who are calling for progress… we’ve used all our democratic powers, and yet still those who are meant to represent us are doing the opposite of what we are calling for, systematically dismantling all the policies we had fought for that would help to make this country sustainable and keep us from a dangerous future. There hasn’t been nearly enough of an outcry about this, and whilst we are doing our best through the usual democratic means, we need to break this loud silence and get across that this is absolutely unacceptable, anti-progress and anti-democratic.

  1. Why it was reasonable

We did not cause harm, aggression or hostility to any person, and indeed my aim ultimately is for those inside DECC who want real action on climate change to be freed to do their jobs, not tied by short-sighted anti-green agendas from above.

Our action was small scale and reversible, but done to illustrate an important truth.

It was in line with my commitment to Jesus as a Christian – as a Christian I feel that whilst it is essential to always act out of love for God and others, I have a responsibility to speak out against injustice to protect all that God loves, human and non-human, which may at times involve non-violent direct action in the tradition of Christ and the prophets where I feel justice and truth are being silenced.

We were using art to make a statement exposing truth, exercising our right to creative expression – perhaps arguably an improvement given the building’s name afterwards was more truthful.

It was hard to find an alternative way to do this without resorting to such means when ordinary means of exercising democratic rights have been disregarded.

  1. Therefore this was not criminal damage.

Training Day: Non-Violent Direct Action for Christians

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London 15th October 2016

Followers of Jesus Christ are taught to imitate Christ and so are often given training and encouragement to feed the hungry, heal the sick and forgive our enemies.

Seldom are we trained or encouraged to follow Jesus Christ in the activities that won the attention of the authorities, got him arrested and then crucified.  His early followers shared in this aspect of his life but we generally do not.

Some of us who are aware of the contemporary signs of the times, aware of the behaviours of the principalities and powers in the world and aware of our own complicity in these processes wonder what role Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) should have in our following of Jesus Christ.

Members of the NVDA group Christian Climate Action have organised a training day for those interested in exploring these themes on 15th October 2016.

If you would like to take part then please register here.

No prior experience is expected.  Interest and participation in this training day commits you to no action but it is hoped that it will be of use to you as you consider the issues around NVDA and how it relates to your own Christian discipleship.

Although Christian Climate Action focus on issues around Climate Change it is hoped this training day will be of use to Christians with diverse interests in Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.

Venue: St David Room on the lower floor of St Georges Cathedral, Cathedral House, Westminster Bridge Rd, Camberwell, London SE1 7HY

Saturday, 15th October, 10am Coffee, 10-30am start, 6pm finish.

Please bring your own lunch, coffee and tea will be provided.

Ruth’s defence statement

Around 25 people gathered to support those who were in courtThis is more-or-less what I said at our trial on 31st May 2016 for whitewashing DECC.

  1. Who I am

I am a Christian.  I believe the world, and all that is in it, was created by and belongs to God.  I can’t stand by and watch it being destroyed.

I am also a mother.  I want to protect my children’s future.

  1. What I did

On the 30th November last year, we exposed the hypocrisy of DECC by whitewashing its walls and rebranded it the Dept for Extreme Climate Change in black paint on the low wall in front of the building.

  1. Climate change and why it matters

Climate change is not one in a number of issues to be addressed.  A stable climate is a fundamental need for the civilised and abundant life on earth that we all take for granted.

I first learned about the science of climate change while reading Chemistry at Oxford.  I trust the science.  And the science says that drastic, immediate, massive action is needed globally to avert catastrophe. At a human-induced temperature above 1.5, maybe 2 degrees, 3 degrees if we are particularly lucky, natural feedbacks will take over to escalate temperatures, and what humans do after that point is pretty immaterial.  Climate change is not something we can leave to our children, or even voted in a new government.  It must be dealt with now or not at all.  As a citizen of the UK, all I am asking is for the UK to do its part.

And the department responsible for that is the DECC.

  1. Why target DECC

DECC also says it believes the science.  It says that it exists ‘to make sure the UK has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies and promote international action to mitigate climate change.’ There is no doubt in my mind that it is doing exactly the opposite. That it is promoting dangerous, dirty and expensive energy and, in the process, most crucially, scuppering chances of sufficient international action on climate change.

We chose the day of our action to be the first day of COP21, the UN climate conference in Paris.  This conference was widely thought to be the last chance for the planet. The main driver for this conference was meant to be the emission reductions that countries offered before the conference, to show willing and to encourage others to follow.  And, of course, in the run up to the conference, DECC should have been demonstrating that our country meant to take the lead on moving to a zero carbon world.  Instead, it did the exact opposite.

Prof Jacquie McGlade, the UN’s chief environment scientist said, ‘What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom ….. we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced…..It’s a very serious signal – a very perverse signal that we do not want to create.’

We wanted to send a signal that some citizens of our country did want it to show leadership.

Democratic deficit:

I have been sending signals on climate change for nearly 20 years.  I have written innumerable letters and emails to my MP and other ministers.  I have gone to the London climate demonstrations every year since they started, when my 16-year-old was a baby, and   have marched in wind and rain.  Locally, I started a community solar scheme, and have led the local primary school and my local church to achieving Environmental Awards.  Nationally, I am a Trustee of two Christian Environmental charities, Green Christian and Operation Noah, which I helped set up ten years ago.  All of this has been to try to raise awareness amongst people of faith and none that ordinary people have to both act and call on our government to act.

I also took part in the biggest climate lobby ever on the 17th June, when thousands met with their MPs to ask them to put climate as a priority for this government.  That very evening Amber Rudd announced the first of her ‘cut-the-green-crap’ policies: that subsidies for on-shore wind would be ending early.

With this absolute proof of the democratic deficit in this country, we chose a more creative way to be heard.

  1. What I hoped to achieve by my actions.

  • To position myself on the right side of history. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ My emailing, writing letters, marching, meeting with my MP etc. were not being heard. In effect, it was all silence. Somehow I had to speak louder. When we look back to times when we know now that governments were wrong, we revere those who took direct action to stand up for what is right.  And in many cases the peaceful direct action forced a rapid change to a better society.
  • To encourage others to act. It is very easy to fall into fear and denial about climate change. But my faith gives me hope.  And my hope is that mass non-violent direct action, guided by the spirit of peace and love, can still avert climate chaos.  If that is God’s plan, I want to be part of it and encourage others to be part of it too.
  • To safeguard life and property by changing DECC’s policies.  Pretty-much all life on earth is threatened by climate change which is currently being encouraged by the policies of DECC. By whitewashing the walls we were naming DECC as hypocritical.  By painting the words ‘Dept for Extreme Climate Change’ we were naming the real outcome of the work of the institution. We didn’t want to attack DECC, we simply wanted to change it into an institution that did what it says it wants to do. And realising and accepting the truth of where you are is the first step to change.
  • To prevent a greater crime. I think what DECC is doing is criminal. By increasing the danger of climate change, they are partaking in the genocide of future generations and the irreparable damage to the earth’s life-support system.

The point of having laws is to maintain justice, stability and order.  But climate change threatens justice, stability and order so fundamentally.  I think that the law should be used to defend those who are trying to stop climate mechange not those who are creating it.

I think that DECC should be in the dock today, not us.  I think that one day, in some way, DECC will be judged and found guilty.

PRESS RELEASE: Christians Found Guilty for Climate Protest

Monday 31st May 2016

The five members of Christian Climate Action outside court after the verdict

Five Christians have been found guilty today of causing criminal damage when they whitewashed the walls of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). On the first day of the Paris climate conference in November of last year, the members of Christian Climate Action exposed the department’s hypocrisy by whitewashing its walls and rebranding it the ‘Department for Extreme Climate Change’ in black paint.

Their case was held in front of a crowded public gallery as around 25 supporters of action against climate change gathered at Hammersmith Magistrates Court to pray and vigil throughout the day. The defendants, who represented themselves, did not dispute their presence at the scene or the actions attributed to them, but argued that they had a ‘lawful excuse’ under section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act.

Speaking after the verdict, Father Martin Newell said:

‘Pope Francis has called on Christians to go further in opposing climate change and we have tried to answer that call in faithfulness to Jesus who was also tried and found guilty by a court.

‘As a Catholic I believe in the power of symbols and symbolic actions and our actions symbolically highlighted that this department is whitewashing the truth of what’s happening. This is urgent – climate change is already happening and people are already dying.’

Phil Kingston, 80, and the oldest member of the group, said:

‘I was speaking on behalf of my grandchildren and the uncertain future they face. Preventing unnecessary deaths is an integral part of our humanity. When we do what we believe is right, good will come. I have regularly questioned what to do when democratic processes yielded no progress and warnings were ignored and have concluded that, as with other successful protest movements, non-violent direct action is the answer.’

Ruth Jarman, 53, said:

‘We do not agree with today’s judgement. The point of the law is to maintain justice, stability and order. Climate change threatens all these things so fundamentally that the law should be used to defend those who are trying to stop climate change, not those who are creating it. We think DECC should have been in the dock, not us. The department speaks fine words, but its actions scupper any possibility of sufficient global action on climate change.’

Helen Whitall, 32, said:

‘What we did was reasonable under the circumstance. As a Christian I feel that whilst it is essential to always act out of love for God and others, I have a responsibility to speak out against injustice to protect all that God loves, human and non-human, which may at times involve non-violent direct action in the tradition of Christ and the prophets where I feel justice and truth are being silenced.’

Westley Ingram, 39, said:

‘The climate talks in Paris were akin to leaders gathered in a burning house agreeing to only buy flame retardant furniture in the future. I do not believe we have damaged DECC’s building, because we have not affected its utility; if we have done anything, it is to damage the propaganda value of the building by exposing it for what it really is.’

The group has received support from a number of theologians. Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, said,

‘Without such acts in the history of the United Kingdom, the vote would not have been conferred on non-land owning citizens, nor on women, and we would not have ended slavery, or forced child labour in our factories. Civil disobedience is essential to democracy provided it harms no one. The actions of these protestors were a non-violent and peaceable way to expose the hypocrisy of current UK government energy policies. The UK has the potential still to lead the world towards the new sustainable energy economy that the climate crisis calls for and this type of action is essential to the democratic process in the UK.’

The five were ordered to pay £340 each.

ENDS

 

Editors Notes:

  1. More information, including statements of support and photographs, can be found on our website: www.christianclimateaction.wordpress.com
  2. Ruth’s statement explaining her actions in court is here:  https://christianclimateaction.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/ruths-defence-statement-2/
  3. A video of our action: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/climate-change-activists-vandalise-government-building-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks-a6754496.html
  4. The letter handed into DECC at the time of the action: https://christianclimateaction.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/dear-amber-the-letter-we-handed-in-to-decc-to-explain-our-re-branding-exercise/