The Anglican Church has told the Abbott government to change its approach to climate change, urging it to respect and base its policy on scientific evidence.
At a meeting in Adelaide, the church's Australian general synod passed a unanimous motion calling on the government to "respect and act upon relevant independent evidence-based scientific advice’’ on climate change.
The 23 dioceses of the church said they were gravely concerned that Australia’s target to cut carbon dioxide emissions - five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 - was well short of what was needed.
They said they deeply regretted that it was "future generations and other forms of life" that would "bear the real cost of our heavy dependence on carbon-based energy”.
Perth Bishop Tom Wilmot, a church leader on environmental issues, told Fairfax Media that the environment was such an important issue it should not be left just to politicians and economists to discuss it.
‘‘My concern is the Abbott government seems to be deconstructing almost everything that was put in place over the last decade or so to protect the environment,’’ he said.
‘‘It seems to be neutering any scientific voice and, in fact, any voice that seeks to speak on environmental matters.’
He said the appointment of businessman and self-described climate sceptic Dick Warburton to head a review of the renewable energy target was a cynical way of pre-determining its outcome.
And he accused Environment Minister Greg Hunt of being dishonest about the effectiveness of the carbon price, which is expected to be repealed next week with support of new crossbench senators.
Bishop Wilmot said he was concerned about the government's attitude to environmental policy generally, including handing approval powers for big developments to state governments.
He said the governments unsuccessful attempt to undo world heritage protection of some Tasmanian wilderness left Australia looking like a ‘‘vandal’’ and a ‘‘pariah’’.
He said he could not say that all bishops shared his views on the ‘‘cavalier attitude of the federal government to environmental protection’’, but the majority did privately.
Bishop Wilmot said the church had a unique voice to add to the environmental debate, adding a theological, moral and ethical dimension.
He said there was a long tradition in Christianity of respect and care for the environment, from the theology of the old testament to the parables of nature used by Jesus ‘‘to demonstrate straight truths about the kingdom of heaven’’.
‘‘My own theology is such that Christ isn’t just the redeemer of people, but the redeemer of the world,’’ he said.
‘‘We say in the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday in church ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done in Earth as it is in heaven'. Well, I take that literally.’’
In response to the church's motion, Mr Hunt's spokesman said the government fully accepted the science of climate change.
''The problem with the carbon tax is that it has an adverse impact on families, whilst failing to significantly reduce emissions,'' he said.
''We therefore hope the Anglican Church will agree that the Coalition’s approach of taking pressure off electricity prices and actually achieving a significant reduction in emissions is a far better policy.''