Approximately a hundred and twenty people from across the Arundel and Brighton Diocese attended the Time is Now Lobby of MPs on the 26 June. It was a warm, sunny day, and people of all ages and from all walks of life gave up their day to meet their MPs outside Parliament. Some travelled by train and others by the diocesan coach which started in Hove, travelled to Crawley and on into central London.
The people were there to tell their MPs that the time to act on climate change is NOW and to ask them to ensure that the UK commits to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 by implementing suitable policies. They wanted them to take responsibility for all UK emissions and not ask countries least able to cope to bear our country’s burden and also to scale up investment now to tackle the climate and environmental emergency. Finally, they wanted a commitment to immediately stop all new ODA investment in fossil fuels, and to phase out all public support for fossil fuels from 2020 onwards. The lobbyists there were courteous, but demanding of their MPs.
The students from Hove and Crawley began their day with school based activities in Paradise Gardens and Amigo Hall. They met News Round Presenter Martin Dougan and actor Ceallach Spellman and had an opportunity to design their TimeIsNow placards.
Meanwhile, those people not associated with schools, attended the interfaith service at Westminster Church Hall, where Christine Allen director of CAFOD welcomed everyone and urged all to come together as people united in faith and in relationship with one another in conjunction with the planet through the goodness of God. She reminded the people of Pope Francis’ words in Laudato Si’ telling them that they can all cooperate together as instruments of God to care for creation.
Faith leaders from all major religions came together; including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Qari Asim MBE, Chair of the Mosques and Imams Advisory Board; Vishvapani, Buddhist teacher and Radio 4 Thought for the Day contributor. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, leader of Masorti Judaism in the UK also spoke passionately at the interfaith event about how we must all work together to protect our world . He said that no action is too small and we all need to change the way we live to stop climate change.
The Walk of Witness took place from St Martin-in-the-Fields crossed to Trafalgar Square and lobbyists walked en masse to Whitehall to show we have a shared hope and a common aim. People held banners, chanted and started the day off with so much energy and enthusiasm!
From 1pm students, parishioners and people from the Climate Coalition, gathered at Westminster to connect the poor to the powerful by sharing their concerns on climate change and the environment with their local MPs who have the power to make a difference. Peter Kyle MP spent about half an hour talking to his constituents including twenty students from Hove. I was very impressed by how well informed and articulate they were engaging with him and asking him intelligent questions. He even apologised to them for the situation they will face in the future. Students from Crawley also met their MP, Henry Smith and were also clearly prepped to talk passionately to their MP and demand action. It was a wonderful site to behold – so many people meeting their MPs along the Thames.
Whilst walking around the lobby queue, there was a real sense of excitement and expectation. There was a sea of placards with slogans about combating climate change: “Keep the planet cool”, “There is no planet B” and, a personal favourite, “More masses, less gasses”.
One of the students called Natalia commented; ‘I’m really glad I went to the Climate Lobby. It helped me to see how important it is that we take action now, rather than in 20 years’ time. We should also continue to put pressure on our politicians to act. I would definitely encourage everyone to get involved in any further action.’
Sussex University student Siobhan added; “It’s so important that we take action on climate change, we all have a responsibility to care for our common home. I am inspired by Saint Oscar Romero who taught us that we cannot do everything, however if we all come together and do something well, change can happen”
The students also had the opportunity of meeting Brazilian land rights lawyer, José Batista, from organisation the Pastoral Land Commission Marabá, who travelled to the largest-ever environmental lobby of Parliament, supported by UK aid agency CAFOD, calling for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis.
When meeting Batista, the students had lots of questions for him like: “What does the Amazon actually look like?” and “What can we do to help?”
One student also wanted to thank Batista for defending the environment: “Thank you from me, for protecting one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I hope that the Amazon will still exist for me to visit when I get older.”
At 2pm alarms went off in unison all along the queue with over 12,000 people making a noise about climate change. Alongside alarms a cheer went up and chants of “The Time is Now” could be heard!
The day culminated with a Mass at Church House which was a chance to reflect and thank God for our common home. Some of our students and staff from Arundel and Brighton led the bidding prayers. It was a beautiful way to end the day.
We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect our environment and send a clear message to our politicians. We could not have achieved this without the support of the people from our Arundel and Brighton Diocese and indeed across the United Kingdom.
For me personally, it was a privilege to attend the lobby and I felt so inspired by the parishioners of all ages – grandparents, mothers, fathers and young, together with the students from our Arundel and Brighton Schools whom, indeed, will have to face the consequences of the climate crisis. But,there is indeed HOPE! These young people are inspirational, care passionately about their common home and demand change.
Thank you to all those that supported the lobby.
If you were unable to attend the lobby and want your MP to know your concerns about climate change, why not write to them? You can use our net zero MP briefing to help draft your letter or email and include this booklet for them to learn more about climate change and the environment.
Jenny Finlayson Community Participation Coordinator for Arundel and Brighton