Climate Justice: a Quaker View 

  • 25 Jun 2020
  • Written by Nick Cullen
  • Blog, Climate Justice, General

In this guest blog, Rosemary Hartill of the Scottish Quakers gives us a view of Quaker action on Climate Justice and their activities for COP26.


Two planets meet. The first one asks: “How are you?”
“Not so well”, the second answered “I’ve got the Homo Sapiens.”
“Don’t worry,” the other replied, “I had the same. That won’t last long.”


Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)  have long been involved in campaigns. But we reckon Climate Justice may be the most important one of all. In the past, the best of Quakers have campaigned on behalf of slaves, people mentally distressed, prisoners, the hungry, the low paid, gay people, conscientious objectors, victims of war and oppression and for fair, honest and truthful businesses.  

But in 2020, the climate crisis means we are called to campaign for everyone. We seek God in everyone, and by framing our calls to action on climate with a lens of justice we are keen that  our actions address the deep injustice that those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are the hardest  hit. 

But how to do that best? Are the ways we work a true sign of 

Simplicity and Sustainability 

Truth and integrity



Are they a STEP forward? Or just a PEST? 

You’ll know the old joke about a vegan, a cyclist and a climate change activist going into a bar (if only we could). What happens? Everyone else leaves. 


So, what we try to do ..  

Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) supports witness by Quakers and others on climate justice. Action can take many forms.

The first thing is working with partners. We are proud  to be one of the recent co-launchers of  the UK-wide Build Back Better, campaign and here in Scotland, we are especially proud to be working with the 50+ member organisations of  Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.   


Our work as Quakers includes:

Speaking out. Whether or not our elected representatives are worried about the climate crisis, they need to feel pressure to take action. QPSW  provides briefings, support and training to help members and others talk to their MP or local councillors.


Quaker staff support local projects and help share people’s stories about Building the Alternative.  They direct people  to practical advice for building the new economy, from food co-operatives to community-led housing.  


From diet to transport, our everyday choices can help Let Our Lives Speak. 

But individual change is not enough. Climate action is about collective action to change our economy and our politics. We need to find our voice, Tell Our Own and Other’s Stories, work with others, spread the word. 


Moving  our money. Many Friends have pulled their money out of fossil fuels. Some have asked their  employer for a fossil-free pension, switched  to a more ethical bank and encouraged others to do the same.  


Then there’s technique, adopted by XR, of Disrupting directly. There is a long Quaker tradition of taking nonviolent direct action (NVDA) in support of concerns that have been tested within a meeting. There’s no need for everyone to be ‘on the front line’. We know that for every person putting their body in the way of injustice, many more are needed to organise, research, facilitate, do media work, and care for everyone’s well-being. 


Plans for COP 26 in November 2021

Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) have official observer status at the COP and offer side events. QUNO maintains houses close to the UN in both Geneva and New York. For nearly 50 years, these have provided a space where UN diplomats, staff and non-governmental partners can work on difficult issues in a quiet, off-the-record atmosphere out of the public eye.


In preparation for November next year, Scottish Friends have set up a framework for extending the Glasgow Meeting House Bed and Breakfast scheme to provide accommodation for delegates and visitors and hope to use the Meeting House for events. They have also considered the possibility of supporting delegates from poorer countries to attend the COP. 



Do we feel encouraged? 

Yes. The challenge is huge and we don’t underestimate the power of apathy and vested interests. 


But public concern about climate change has reached a record high and scores of leading global corporates across Europe and America are calling for governments to  use their economic recovery plans to support decarbonisation and long-term economic resilience. So are  investors managing trillions of dollars of assets.   Current and former bankers also  believe the pandemic offers a unique chance to green the global economy.


The  EU Commission seems steadfast in believing that combatting climate change should feature strongly in economic recovery packages. Positive noises have also come from  leading governments in GermanyFranceItaly and the UK, buoyed perhaps by evidence from leading economists that investing in renewables, energy efficiency, and clean technology offers the best response to the recession for jobs, growth and wellbeing. 


We haven’t found a solution for climate change yet, but……we’re definitely getting warmer. In more ways than one. 


Find out More:


Quaker Peace & Social Witness is currently running an online Summer Series of workshops on topics of wider interest and concern. 

  • Conversations with Quaker activists – Esther Leighton and Sam Donaldson. Thursday 25 June, 10.30-12.00. Everyone welcome.
  • Lessons from Kenyan peace activists – how to bring people together for change. Tuesday 30 June, 14.00-15.30. Practitioner level.
  • Lobbying for a better world. Thursday 9 July, 12.30-14.00. Everyone welcome.
  • Working for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel. Tuesday 14 July, 14.00-15.30. Everyone welcome.
  • Can we teach peace? Thursday 23 July, 12.30-14.00. Everyone welcome.
  • What does love require of me? Spiritual Activism in this moment. Tuesday 28 July, 12:30-14.00. Practitioner level.

The link to register is here 

Resources and links
  • ECCR’s ‘Money Makes Change’ programme offers useful resources: 
  • Support for anyone exploring the Quaker commitment to sustainability is available from Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. Email [email protected].
  • Nick Cullen

    Nick is a past coordinator for the Climate Fringe platform and Climate Fringe Festival, working on strategy, website development and communications. He spent two years at SCCS in the lead up to COP26 and led on developing the Homestay Network, volunteering programme, COVID-19 safety, and many other aspects of logistics and operations in collaboration with the COP26 Coalition.