John Sentamu and church leaders call on UK Christians to demand an end to all new fossil fuel licences

Numerous bishops are among the church leaders calling on Christians across the country to join them outside Parliament, demanding an end to the fossil fuel era.

The call comes ahead of The Big One [1]– a climate protest, which is taking place from 21 to 24 April. The Big One is set to be the biggest UK climate protest yet, with more than 100,000 people gathering at Parliament to demand an end to the fossil fuel era. It is a protest designed for mass participation – with family-friendly activities planned across the long weekend.

Former Archbishop of York and current Chair of Christian Aid, John Sentamu said: “Climate change is the greatest insidious and brutal indiscriminate force of our time. The people suffering the most have done the least to cause it. That is why continuing to search for new sources of fossil fuels, despite explicit warnings against this from the International Energy Agency, is such an offence against humanity. If we want to limit climate suffering we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The Church has a proud history of standing up against injustice and once again we need to see Christians calling on the Government to take decisive actions.”

Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford said: “Earth is the only planet, the only corner of this vast universe, where we are certain there is abundant life. Yet the once-rich tapestry of life on earth is now being degraded year by year because of the expansion and greed of a single species, ourselves. We have time, just, to respond to the climate crisis. This is the moment to send a clear message to the Government that they must go further and faster to tackle carbon pollution.”

[Other quotes from church leaders can be found at the bottom of this press release]

The protest begins on Friday 21 April with a No Faith In Fossil Fuels Service [2]. The service will take place at St John’s Church, Waterloo, with people gathering from 11am and the service starting at noon. After the service, the crowd will be walking together in pilgrimage towards Parliament, to join The Big One protest.

A number of Christian groups are taking part across the weekend, including Tearfund, Christian Aid, CAFOD, The Salvation Army, Young Christian Climate Network, Student Christian Movement, Operation Noah, Just Love, A Rocha UK, Engage Worship, Green Christian, All We Can and Christian Climate Action.

In 2021, the International Energy Agency said that exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating [3]. Since this stark warning, all major oil companies are continuing to explore for and develop new fossil fuel reserves [4].

Despite the advice of the IEA, the UK government has opened a new licensing round for companies to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea. Nearly 900 locations are being offered for exploration, with more than 100 licences set to be awarded [5]. The UK government is also subsidising the fossil fuel industry. Since 2015, the UK government has given £20bn more in support to fossil fuel producers than to those of renewables [6].

Last year, a YouGov poll commissioned by CAFOD found that 59% of Christians felt the government had done too little to tackle climate change over the last year. Only 16% of Christians surveyed thought the government had done the right amount [7].

Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, Bishop of St Germans & Bishop to the Armed Forces, said: “The climate emergency isn’t a problem for the future; it’s a disaster that already affects many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Jesus said that he came to be ‘good news to the poor’ and I hope that many Christians will be in London for The Big One to stand with Jesus and speak up for the poorest of the world.”

Rt Revd John Stroyan, Bishop of Warwick, said: “The Big One’ is making a statement of the utmost urgency and importance to our Government, namely that humanity faces an existential crisis which threatens all peoples, all creatures and indeed the Creation itself. It is important that people across the whole nation, of all faiths and none, unite in calling our Government urgently to take steps to decarbonise the economy.”

Rt Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, said: “Our faith calls us to take a stand against suffering, whatever form that takes. Fossil fuel expansion will lead to tremendous suffering for our young people, for those in climate vulnerable countries and ultimately for all humankind along with many other species. Our faith also calls us to nurture and cherish our Planet Earth, knowing that our health and survival, along with that of all living things, depends on it. I will be at the No Faith in Fossil Fuels Service on the 21st of April – to stand in prayerful protest against fossil fuel expansion and to pray for just, wise and swift decisions from our Government. On this issue we must stand together.”

Rt Revd Rob Saner-Haigh, Bishop of Penrith, said: “Our prayer is that thousands of people feel empowered and that their voices are heard as they come together as part of next month’s The Big One climate protest.  As Christians we have a duty to look to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, seeking to sustain and renew the life of the earth, a duty reflected in one of our key themes in our ecumenical vision and strategy for Cumbria to ‘Tread Gently’. We wish all those well who make the trip to London, and encourage people to explore and use The Big One prayer collection.”

Rt Revd Dr Eleanor Sanderson, Bishop of Hull, said: “The climate crisis disproportionally affects the most vulnerable in our world. I have seen first-hand the impact of climate change amongst our Pacific families and know their impassioned plea for the world leaders to see and respond with the urgency that they themselves are having to adapt. We must all take responsibility for the way our lifestyles contribute to this crisis and work together to create a more equitable and better reality for our global community today and for the generations yet to come. My hope and prayer is that a call to greater action and collaboration will be heard in this land too.”

Rt Revd Richard Jackson, Bishop of Hereford, said: “Climate change is an international emergency, the consequences of which reach to every corner of the world. In Herefordshire excess rainfall has caused the Wye to reach its highest ever level in the last few years, bringing not just flooding but sewage outflows that have had a devastating effect on wildlife. We can do our little bits as individuals, but only concerted government action can bring the necessary changes to reach our net zero target. I commend Christian Climate Action for continuing to bring this issue to government for their response.”

Revd Jo Rand, a Methodist Minister from Cumbria, said: “I’m really glad to see the number of mainstream charities and organisations that are taking part in the Big One. We must end our dependence on fossil fuels, and there’s strength in numbers as we show our leaders this isn’t a fringe issue but something that’s at the heart of working for a just world. Come and be a part of it.”

Laura-Lee Lovering, BMS Creation Stewardship Co-ordinator, said: “BMS World Mission will be joining Christian Climate Action and many others at The Big One on 21 April. We see this as an opportunity to show that the Church’s light in the world has not gone out, nor has the salt of the earth lost its saltiness. This is our chance to stand in solidarity with those whose voices often go unheard, the oppressed, the real-life people who are suffering because of a world chained to overconsumption, greed and selfishness.”

Patricia Pagulayan, who works for Tearfund in the Philippines, and will speak at the Big One, said: “The Philippines is already experiencing more frequent and more violent typhoons. Farmers are enduring one failed harvest after another because of unpredictable weather patterns. How much more destruction do we need to endure before the world wakes up to this climate emergency and offers real support for vulnerable communities? Protesters at the Big One in London are standing next to farmers and fisherfolk in the Philippines who experience the brunt of a climate crisis they did little to cause.”

Elizabeth Kitchenside, a Salvation Army First Year Cadet and a speaking at the No Faith In Fossil Fuels Service, said: “I’m joining The Big One because I believe that there is a better way and a brighter future possible for the planet, but this can only happen with radical change in society and policy. Micah 6:8 calls us to “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” There is nothing just or merciful about the climate crisis. And so, I walk. For my future, for the planet, for justice and most importantly for my God.”

Salvation Army Commissioner, Anthony Cotterill, said: “Caring for creation is a mission imperative for The Army and for every one of us. As the prophetic voice speaks out, we all need to step up in taking responsibility. It is God honouring to do so.”

Christine Allen, CAFOD’s Director, said: “Pope Francis has called on every one of us to take collective responsibility to care for our common home. The Pope has said that means leaving behind the fossil fuels that are destroying our common home. We cannot continue to allow a situation where fossil fuel companies reap record-breaking profits while people in communities that have contributed least to the climate crisis pay the price.”

Fr Martin Newell, a Passionist Catholic priest, said: “This is such a critical time for life on our planet. The sad truth is that the window in which we are able to turn the climate crisis around is closing fast. This is a really difficult thing to comprehend. But I choose to believe in the Church. I believe that we will not let God’s creation be sullied by greed, by selfishness and all the horrible systematic sin we are seeing around us. I invite my fellow Christians to stand alongside me as we say no to fossil fuel exploration.”

– ENDS – 



  1. Christian Climate Action webpage for The Big One:
  1. Webpage for the No Faith In Fossil Fuels Service:
  2. International Energy Agency (IEA) Says Oil & Gas Exploration And Coal Plant Construction Must Stop. Now. – CleanTechnica
  3. Oil and gas firms planning ‘frightening’ fossil fuels growth, report finds | Climate crisis | The Guardian
  5. Fossil fuels received £20bn more UK support than renewables since 2015 | Climate crisis | The Guardian
  6. Survey Report (