Archbishop of Canterbury says fear hinders climate change battle

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“We are afraid because we don’t know how we can survive without the comforts of our existing lifestyle. We are afraid that new policies will be unpopular with a national electorate. We are afraid that younger and more vigorous economies will take advantage of us – or we are afraid that older, historically dominant economies will use the excuse of ecological responsibility to deny us our proper and just development.”

Yesterday church bells in Denmark and other countries rang 350 times to represent the figure many scientists believe is a safe level of carbon dioxide in the air: 350 parts per million.

Joining Williams at Copenhagen’s Lutheran cathedral was Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and religious leaders from Tuvalu, Zambia, Mexico and Greenland. Williams, who led the ecumenical service, said a paralysing sense of fear and selfishness would deny future generations a “stable, productive and balanced world to live in” and instead give them a world of “utterly chaotic and disruptive change, of devastation and desertification, of biological impoverishment and degradation.”

There was even a sense that people were not frightened enough by this apocalyptic vision and cautioned against this approach, saying it would “drive out one sickness with another.”

“It can make us feel that the problem is too great and we may as well pull up the bedclothes and wait for disaster. It can tempt us to blaming one another or waiting for someone else to make the first move,” he added.

But humans were not “doomed to carry on in a downward spiral of the greedy, addictive, loveless behaviour” that had brought mankind to this crisis and he urged people to scrutinise their lifestyles and policies and how these demonstrated care for creation. Hecalled on people to consider what a sustainable and healthy relationship with the world would look like.

His message for conference delegates centred on trusting each other in a world of limited resources. “How shall we build international institutions that make sure that resources get where they are needed – that ‘green taxes’ will deliver more security for the disadvantaged, that transitions in economic patterns will not weigh most heavily on those least equipped to cope?”

Williams has had a busy few week: railing against the UK government for its religious illiteracy, condemning proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda, grappling with fresh dissent in the Anglican Communion and travelling to the landmark environment summit.In an interview with Channel 4 News last Saturday Williams warned that there were no “quick solutions” to global warming and said that there was a finite amount that individuals could do to make a difference.

He said: “I don’t think there are any quick solutions, any absolutes here, but I think these are the sorts of issues about energy use particularly, whether it’s travel or domestically, that have to be really up in front of our minds.”

Foreign holidays were not an “easy call, frankly” while he decreed that everyone should use public transport as much as possible while at the very least enquire about ecologically sustainable travel.

He said that high-energy consuming vehicles in a city where there were alternatives were an irresponsible way of dealing with the crisis.

“We use a hybrid car for that reason as my official car in London. I’m also coming back from Copenhagen by train on this occasion rather than flying,” he added.