At European Christian Environmental Network Assembly, Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata reflects on climate justice

World Council of Churches (WCC) progamme director for Public Witness and Diakonia Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata spoke at the European Christian Environmental Network Assembly, currently convening in Roskilde, Denmark.

Mtata spoke on why we need to see the climate crisis as an issue of justice. “The most responsible countries are not acting on global agreements, not because they are not able but because they don't prioritize this,” he said. “Where there was political will, we saw huge investments in COVID-19. We have seen even more investment now in the Russian war on Ukraine. I believe if we had similar political will, more could be done to make a difference in this climate crisis.”

The assembly is offering a space to discuss key concerns of eco-theology, assess developments related to key EU policy-shaping on the response to climate change, and outline a vision of a sustainable future.

Mtata, who spoke on 1 September—the same day as the opening of Season of Creation— identified key issues for a justice-based approach, including global inequality, historical responsibility, and displacement and migration.

“Climate change can lead to displacement and migration due to rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and resource scarcity,” he said. “Vulnerable communities often have to relocate, leading to loss of homes, cultures, and livelihoods.”

Other key issues include Indigenous rights, economic disparities, access to resources, and gender equality. “Climate change affects women disproportionately due to traditional gender roles and discrimination, which can limit their ability to access resources and adapt to changing conditions,” said Mtata.

He also highlighted what needs to change. “There are many for whom the climate crisis is not a crisis,” he said. “They are winning political power because the liberal democratic narrative has proved hypocritical.”

Mtata urged a conversion to the reality that the earth is deteriorating as a result of human beings’ actions and systems of production, consumption, and waste management.

“Repentance means change of direction,” he said. “It is about greed and selfishness.”

We also need a change of theological assumptions, as well as a change of cosmology from transaction and competition to cooperation and coexistence, Mtata urged. “Corporations often contribute significantly to emissions,” he noted. “Climate justice involves holding them accountable for their environmental impact and promoting sustainable practices.”

Mtata recommended a holistic approach in tackling environmental challenges. “The rich Western populations need to live more responsibly, consume less, manage their own waste, and stand in solidarity with populations most bearing the brant of the climate crisis.”