Senior leaders from Christian, Muslim and Buddhist faiths visited key Ministers and MPs in Canberra on Thursday 16 November to urge the Federal Government to put an end to all new fossil fuel projects in Australia, and to listen to Pacific Island nations calling for Australia to phase out fossil fuels. 

The faith leaders brought message to Climate Minister Chris Bowen, Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Shadow Climate Minister Ted O’Brien.

They raised their concerns with Foreign Minister Penny Wong just days after the Government announced plans at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting to take Tuvalu’s climate refugees as migrants in Australia while at the same time not committing to calls from some Pacific governments for a fossil fuel phase-out.

The leaders are concerned that the final text of the Communique from the Forum referred to ‘aspiring’ to phase out fossil fuels rather than ‘committing’ to it, that it excluded emissions from exports, and there was no timeline stated.

Their message for the government was that they want protecting the climate one of the key objectives of the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act, the main piece of national environmental legislation. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is reviewing that Act and it is not clear if climate impacts will be taken into account when approving projects.

“It is simply not moral for our environmental laws not to mention the climate”, said Vice President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Mohamed Mohideen OAM.

“We need real and meaningful action from the Government, urgently. We need to stop digging up new fossil fuel reserves which, in all good conscience, we know should not be exported and that scientists tell us we can never burn without real harm to life on Earth”.

“As faith leaders we have an obligation to our youth and next generations. We want to leave a world that is safe and a world that is a better place for the young.”

The leaders told Climate Minister Chris Bowen that his ambition needs to include emissions from exports.

“This Government has made a good start on reducing our domestic use of coal and gas. However, scientists have made clear that to stay below 1.5C of warming there can be no new fossil fuel projects. To date there is no plan to address the effect of the coal and gas we dig up and send overseas. The consequences are the same as if they were burned here in Australia.” Gawaine Powell Davies, President of the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils said.

Uniting Church President Rev Sharon Hollis said, “We all declare solidarity with the Pasifika communities who are well and truly on the frontlines of this unfolding climate crisis, as well as with our Australian communities who have endured the Black Summer bushfires, followed by three years of extreme floods, only to be facing the prospect of bushfires again this summer.”