The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
Sustainable Development Goal 13: TAKE URGENT ACTION TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACTS
- Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate‐related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
- Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.
- Improve education, awareness‐raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
- Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change‐related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States.
Climate change is being felt all around the world, and we are seeing its effects through an increase of extreme events (including severe droughts, more intense rainstorms, powerful tropical cyclones, and extreme heat waves), rising sea levels, rising global temperature, glacial retreat, ocean acidification, and increased air pollution . The main causes of climate change and humanity’s role in it are well understood, and while the warnings are dire if we do not make significant change, we can still make a difference. If we are able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the pace of climate change can slow down, providing an opportunity for nature and humanity to adapt and replenish .
Unfortunately, developing countries, where people are already vulnerable, often feel the most severe effects of climate change . HSBC published a report which showed the top four most vulnerable countries to climate change are India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Bangladesh . A regional example of the severe effects of climate change is seen in the Republic of Kiribati. Kiribati is extremely vulnerable as even a slight increase in sea levels will have disastrous effects on the country, potentially costing them their very existence . Kiribati has taken steps to adapt and has a relocation strategy as a last resort. Sadly, Kiribati is facing these extreme effects despite being the third lowest emitter of CO2 in 2016.
In Australia, the effects of climate change can be seen in the shrinkage of our alpine eco-systems, an increased bushfire risk, and more regular and severe heatwaves. Due to the interconnected nature of our world’s climate, a number of risks Australia faces will be caused from regions we do not directly impact. For example our coastal zones and small islands will be threatened by sea-level rises and extreme events. In addition, global food production and trading patterns will be affected as some exporter production will reduce and new ones will develop. Demands upon Australian aid, resettlement and disaster relief will increase if climate change continues to intensify humanitarian and security issues around the world.
According to Genesis 1 and 2, God extended the caretaking of this world to people, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. … The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”. The Salvation Army’s International Positional Statement on Caring for the Environment states that “The Salvation Army believes people are made in the image of God and have been entrusted with the care of the Earth and everything in it… The Salvation Army is concerned about the effects of environmental damage on present and future generations. Sustainable environmental practices are required to meet today’s global needs and aspirations without compromising the lives of future generations.”.
As Kayla Calvo from the ISJC’s Go and Do Something publication states, “As God’s children, it is our responsibility to watch over the land, sea and animals, to take care of His creation and to help sustain it.” In other words, it is our responsibility to care for and love the earth as God does.
What can we do?
- Educate yourself about how your lifestyle is impacting the world through footprint calculators like https://www.footprintcalculator.org
- Make small changes to your lifestyle. For example, shop locally (to reduce food in air miles), travel efficiently (walk, ride or carpool where possible), minimise waste, and change your energy usage (turn off lights and power points when not in use). For more ideas see http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction/
- Call on leadership to take action. Write to your local Member of Parliament and businesses to request Australia’s policies do more to fight global environmental issues.
- Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
– Pray for those around the world suffering and facing hardship due to environmental changes, that they will experience a sense of hope, and be able to see real improvement.
– Pray for a sense of responsibility in the hearts of people to care for the planet including governments, companies and individuals.
– Pray that Christians will understand that we are stewards of God’s creation and to be an example for others.
For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 13, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
 ‘Why should you care about the climate crisis’, Climate Reality Project. https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-should-you-care-about-climate-crisis ; ‘Climate Change: How do we know?’, NASA Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/  ‘Blanket around the Earth’, NASA Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/ ; ‘Causes of climate change and sea-level rise’, Coast Adapt. https://coastadapt.com.au/causes-of-climate-change-and-sea-level-rise ; ‘What would happen to the climate if we stopped emitting greenhouse gasses today?’, Professor Richard B. Rood. https://theconversation.com/what-would-happen-to-the-climate-if-we-stopped-emitting-greenhouse-gases-today-35011  ‘Climate Change’, CARE. https://www.care.org.au/what-we-do/climate-change/  ‘India most vulnerable to climate change’, SBS News. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/india-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change  ‘Kiribati Climate Change: Effects’, Office of the President Republic of Kiribati. http://www.climate.gov.ki/category/effects/  http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions  ‘What are the impacts of climate change?’, Australian Academy of Science. https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-booklets/science-climate-change/7-what-are-impacts-climate-change  ‘Caring for the Environment’, The Salvation Army International Positional Statement. https://s3.amazonaws.com/cache.salvationarmy.org/25206b0f-277d-49f5-a35f-4014f629d09f_Caring+for+the+environment.pdf