COP26 campus in Glasgow COP26 campus in Glasgow 

COP26: Bishop Arnold, ‘We are at a turning point in climate battle'

As world leaders gather for the COP26 Climate Summit in Scotland, the lead bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, John Arnold, speaks about the importance of strong leadership and action in the battle against climate change.

By Lydia O’Kane

The COP26 summit on Climate Change gets underway in Glasgow, Scotland, from 31 October to 12 November, bringing together parties in order to speed up action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Representatives of more than 200 countries will discuss new targets for cutting or curbing the rise of emissions that contribute to climate change. 

There is a lot at stake at this conference, and according to UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres the “clock is ticking." The head of the United Nations has also warned that a “leadership gap” is undermining the world's efforts to curb global warming.

While world leaders haggle over the best ways to tackle our rising temperatures, faith leaders are stepping up to the plate to raise awareness and look for practical solutions to heal our planet.

Earlier this month, during the 'Faith and Science: Towards Cop26' meeting held in the Vatican, Pope Francis, along with scientists and religious leaders, signed a document calling for the world to achieve net-zero carbon emissions as soon as possible; and for wealthier nations to reduce their own emissions and finance emission reductions by poorer nations.

“We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children,” it read.

Bishop John Arnold is the lead bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Faith and climate

“I think there has been a growing general consensus of the danger that we face with climate change, and I think it’s been important that faith leaders — both Christian and other world faiths — have made remarkably strong statements together about climate change, particularly in that statement made on the 4th of October in the Vatican, that’s been reflected here among faith leaders, certainly where I am in Manchester,” he said.

The Bishop of Salford also noted that at a local level, especially in parishes and schools, there’s been a growing interest in “how we can take practical actions to begin to heal the damage of climate change and to prepare our common home for the future generations.”

Strong leadership

Speaking about the need for strong leadership heading into this summit, the bishop remarked that there are two hundred political leaders coming to Glasgow “and very many of them are in democratically established countries where politicians are probably thinking on the shorter level of the next election, and will they be maintaining their power and position.”

He went on to say that they must be wondering whether, if they do introduce strict measures to curb climate change, they will lose the following of the electorate. In fact, the bishop added, if governments step up to the plate and take action now, they will find the approval of the electorate because people are becoming so much more aware that we are at a “turning point” in the battle against climate change.

Need for action 

Asked if people are still underestimating the urgency of the climate crisis, Bishop Arnold noted, “Certainly there is a growing awareness” and a much greater number of people, even in the last two years, are aware of the “seriousness of what we’re facing. But there will always be, I suppose, those people who are simply ignorant of the situation and people who would deny we are in such a difficult place.”

 “We’ve got to go on making sure that people understand the seriousness and the urgency of what we face at the moment,” he added.

Fruits of Laudato sí 

For Bishop Arnold’s own diocese of Salford, caring for “Our Common Home” is much more than just a phrase. In 2019, the bishop launched an environmental project named after Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato , which includes a walled garden, vegetable patches, and beehives. 

The Laudato Sí Project is “proving very popular with our schools in particular,” he said. There is also the “Guardians of Creation project, which is linked with St Mary’s University; and the Laudato Sí Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford, where we look into the longer-term practical things that we can do to reach carbon neutral [emissions] and that will be for the benefit which we will then share with other dioceses in the hope of encouraging everyone to benefit from research that has been done.”

31 October 2021, 09:00