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Bishops say global downturn ‘opportunity’ for greener economy


The global financial crisis and economic recession represent an "historic opportunity" to bring about a low carbon economy to combat climate change, three European church heads have said in a joint letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency.

"The challenge of resuscitating economic growth cannot be treated in isolation from the challenges of promoting sustainable development," stated the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Church of England, Archbishop Anders Wejryd of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, and Bishop Wolfgang Huber, leader of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

In their letter made public on 9 December, the three bishops urged EU leaders to emulate U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to invest US$75 billion to create 5 million new "green collar" jobs by 2020 as part of a wider package of measures on climate change.

"Although this pledge has yet to be realised, Europe’s leaders must not retreat from taking similar action," they stated, as delegates at a United Nations gathering in Poznan, Poland are seeking to prepare an accord on combating climate change to be agreed in 2009 at a U.N. gathering in Copenhagen.

The bishops urged Sarkozy to ensure "that climate considerations are not marginalised in the search to find short and medium term solutions to immediate economic pressures".

The church leaders said they were concerned that some governments are looking to increase their allowance of carbon credits that can be bought from developing countries, rather than looking at how to decrease carbon output from within the EU.

"The choice is not between economic growth and environmental protection," the clerics stated. "Our economic and environmental fortunes are inextricably linked. Working sustainably for the global common good and respecting the integrity of God’s creation are not alternatives, they are one and the same."

They urged the EU to use the economic downturn to build up a more sustainable economy. "The current financial crisis and economic recession represent less a threat and more an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow’s low carbon economy today," the bishops stated.

Read a copy of the full letter at www.ekd.de/download/081209_brief_williams_weiryd_huber_klimawandel.pdf

(c) Ecumenical News International