The meeting, which took place on Friday October 1, was hosted jointly by the Cathedral’s CAFOD and Justice and Peace Groups and was attended by parishioners as well as A level politics students from Notre Dame High School. It was the first of CAFOD’s Parliament in your Parish campaigns to be held face to face in the diocese, rather than on Zoom.
The meeting was opened by the Chair, James McGarry, with a quotation from the Epistle of James which reminds us that “faith by itself, if it does not result in action, is dead” (James 2:17). The Chair then moved on to emphasise Pope Francis’ concern for economic, social, and environmental justice.
The floor was then opened to questions from sixth form politics students. The first question was on the topic of climate change and whether countries can go green independently.
Clive Lewis stated that we are at a crunch point in humanity’s existence and that climate change is the biggest issue we face today.
“We have an economic crisis that threatens to kill us like a car that is out of control,” he said. “It is time for politicians to press the brakes and do a U turn.” However, he added that “finding a global solution is like telling a tiger to go vegan. Our countries are obsessed by economic wealth.”
One way of helping other countries go green, he suggested, is to allow more politicians to take part in trade agreements that reflect the will of the people, not ones driven to maximise profit behind closed doors.
The next question posed was on whether the upcoming COP26 will solve our problems and if the G20 can help. The response was that there is no accountability to the agreements that countries sign up to. This means that if a country fails to meet its targets or promises, there are no consequences. Clive Lewis also mentioned that the UK has failed to fully meet any of its commitments made at COP21 in Paris in 2015.
The next question was on the topic of debt owed by the Global South. Clive Lewis felt strongly that debt needs to be cancelled now. “Debt is a form of control,” he said. “The Global South need to jump so-called dirty technologies.” Developed countries who are developing clean tech need to give it away for next to nothing, he argued, otherwise the South would simply accumulate more debt.
The final question was on a local issue, the destruction of the Wensum Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest to build the extension of the Northern Distributor Road. Clive Lewis’ response was that we should stop investing in twentieth-century technology such as roads and instead in twenty-first-century technology such as sustainable public transport.
He also said that it is hypocritical of us to bemoan Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, for chopping down the Amazon Rainforest if we are building on sites of uniquely high biodiversity.
In response to the discussion, John McLean, the CAFOD representative from the Cathedral said, “What struck me was that although he was coming from a different perspective, he was saying a lot of things which CAFOD promotes and its supporters pursue; concern for the environment, justice, fair distribution of resources, respect for others especially the poor and helping others to help themselves, education and sustaining development.”
To date, CAFOD volunteers have met with over 100 MPs as part of the Parliament in your Parish Campaign. If you are interested in organising a meeting with your local representative before COP26 check out our webpage here.
If you are interested in volunteering some of your time with CAFOD, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph Savage is Campaign Volunteer Coordinator for CAFOD in East Anglia.
Pictured above is Clive Lewis speaking at St John’s Cathedral and, below, some of the audience.