The community must lead the way to net zero emissions

Pollution (Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash)
Pollution (Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released a scientific report on the state of climate change. The IPCC are an international body of scientists and politicians, and this report basically confirmed much of what we already knew – but significantly, a confirmation based in scientific knowledge.

Our planet is continuing to warm, and humans are most responsible for this change. So far, the IPCC attest to a 1.1C rise of average global temperatures above pre industrial levels; and this rise will continue as a result of the present rate of human caused emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The tree coverage and seas of our world, cannot any more absorb these gases.

They are remaining in the atmosphere and warming our world leading to a growth in the frequency of extreme weather patterns. Anyone looking at news these days cannot miss the reality already of such weather. Just think Greece, Turkey, Germany, Belgium and even here at home.

In this Jewish month of Ellul, the month where we begin to reflect on our own sense of self, leading up to Rosh Hashana, we cannot escape a reckoning of how we are as a species, pulling our planet towards peril.

Will the planet be destroyed? Probably not although that is not a bet anyone should want.

But one of the reasons behind the Biblical commandment to have children, is to settle the world. The prophet Isaiah claims that ‘God did not create emptiness; He created the world to be settled’ (Isaiah 45:18).

It is clear that the fulfilment of the world is through the structures of life that exist on it. So if rising sea levels cause coastal areas to be inundated and uninhabitable, that should clearly bother us.

If sections of nature are endangered, that should also bother us. We know that living a life of belief also requires a significant amount of stability and so the instability and chaos that will pass over our world should be anathema to how we feel as a religion and a people.

We want people to flourish in God’s world, not to become immigrants because of extreme and destructive weather.

We, as a people, have something that can nurture our role in supporting the prevention of climate change. We are very much a community minded people. And our communities can become hubs for considering and learning about how we affect our climate.

We can learn together about climate change. We can reflect on the attitudes of the Torah and the Rabbis to the protection of our world. We can, through the EcoSynagogue project, encourage our Synagogue to play its part. Why not use the ‘energy’ of the recent report and the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow to get your Synagogue to register for EcoSynagogue’s Environmental Audit.

Think how many buildings there are in the UK that service Jewish communities and think of what greater energy efficiency and green energy could do to reduce our carbon emissions. Of course this would not come anywhere near what is needed in the UK. But wouldn’t it be great if we could lead the way, be out in the front of the path towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The Board of Deputies themselves have put a marker down in the sand, aiming at net zero carbon emissions by 2050. I firmly believe that in our communities, we can do so much and work together to pave a path that fulfils the message of Creation; that we are here on earth ‘to work it, and to protect it’. As Hillel famously said, ‘If not now, when’.

About the Author
Rabbi David Mason is rabbi to an Orthodox community in Muswell Hill, north London, of over 1000 people. He has a MSc in Econometrics and an MA in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies and undertakes a great deal of civic and inter faith work. He is Chair of the Haringey Multi Faith Network and is involved in high level dialogue projects with UK Church groups. Rabbi David is passionate about social justice, and climate issues and is one of the leading Rabbis of the EcoSynagogue project. He also has two years training in family therapy.
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