For a number of years now, we have been reporting biennially to Synod on our environmental work, in the Diocese and our churches.
It is extremely difficult to select what to cover and what to leave out – there is so much. So on this occasion we have decided to home in on three subjects.
Eco Church is the new Christian environmental scheme for churches run by A Rocha UK, launched in St Paul’s in January 2016. It provides tools to help churches weave their response to environmental issues into all that they do.
In a time of unprecedented environmental stresses, Eco Church enables churches to respond to God’s mandate to human beings to care for His creation, by integrating environmental care throughout their church’s life and mission.
We have been encouraging our churches to sign up to Eco Church. More than 300 churches have done so around the UK, including sixteen churches so far in the London Diocese.
We previously set a challenge of eleven churches signed up – then each to recruit eleven more! That would total 132 in all. Well we have our First Eleven, and more – so now we need to move on to the next phase.
Eco Church works through self-assessment by means of an online questionnaire, leading to the achievement of bronze, silver and gold awards. These awards recognise churches for their environmental attainment across a wide range of areas, including care of buildings and churchyards, energy-saving, recycling, food and lifestyle, worship, preaching and teaching, engagement in communities and the wider world.
The first Eco Church award, at bronze level, was presented to St Paul’s Cathedral itself, by Archbishop Rowan Williams, after he addressed those present at the launch event. The second bronze award in this Diocese has also now been awarded, to St Mary Hampton. Well done to Hampton Parish! They were swiftly followed by St James’s Piccadilly also gaining its bronze Eco Church award.
Eco Church is supported by a comprehensive range of resources, with online links (including to pages on our diocesan website). These resources are useful in their own right, as well as in support of churches working towards their award.
We want to continue to promote Eco Church at deanery level. Area Deans will be urged to promote Eco Church to deanery synods and chapters across the whole diocese. This should enable us to spread the word wider and wider.
Progress report on energy and carbon reductions
At the same time as promoting environmental action on a wide front, we continue to concentrate on the main issues.
First and foremost is climate change. Members may have read of the extraordinary global temperature records being set on a monthly basis. At some point this may slacken for a while – but this should give us little comfort. Nor should the fact that the UK is one of the very few places where temperatures are fairly steady at the moment – we may even be cooling slightly. But that’s not the point – we aren’t insulated from what is going on around us. The rain and the floods speak for that.
It is imperative that efforts are redoubled to reduce carbon emissions, which are the cause of the problem. As far as churches are concerned, that means reducing our energy use. And we are doing so. Here are two graphs, the first for energy, the second for CO2 emissions:
Now we need not go into all the technical niceties, but just draw out two points.
The first point is obvious from the graphs – there are ups and downs, peaks and troughs, but the trend is firmly down. In fact, each peak so far has been lower than the previous peak, each trough lower than the previous trough, and the trend line goes down the middle. We have some notion of the reasons for at least two of the spikes – in 2009 and 2012. Overall the trend is not bad, though it needs to get much steeper and faster: we have a way to go to meeting our targets.
Secondly, what you cannot see from the graphs, we need to pay much more attention to our electricity use. This is our key challenge. Almost all our savings have been in heat – usually gas. Little or no net savings have been made in electricity. These are very striking trends, and we don’t quite understand why. But the figures are clear.
The obvious way to save electricity is to switch to low energy lighting. Many churches have done this already; I can give lots of information and advice to those who have yet to do so.
But strangely, savings made so far in general lighting have been cancelled out by increased electricity use in other ways. Does this mean more computers, more AV systems, amplification for the band, temporary theatre lighting for events? We don’t really know. Feedback and intelligence from anyone would help. At this stage we would ask churches to pay attention to what they are doing and its energy consequences – not to curtail mission, but to aim for low energy mission (in the best sense)!
Motion on climate change for the General Synod
The following motion was moved by Mrs Enid Barron and passed by General Synod:
This Synod agrees to submit a motion to the General Synod in the following form:
“That this Synod:
(a) recognise the escalating threat to God’s creation from global warming and climate change, and the suffering caused, particularly that caused to the poor;
(b) recall the previous resolution of Synod, including ‘to develop Shrinking the Footprint to enable the whole Church to address the issue of climate change’;
(c) call on the Environmental Working Group, supported by the national Shrinking the Footprint team and the Mission & Public Affairs Division:
(i) to compile and submit a progress report to Synod upon action so far at national level;
(ii) to prepare and submit a framework plan to the Archbishop’s Council for the promotion, co-ordination and rapid acceleration of nationwide action by the Church to reduce its energy use and CO2 emissions;
(iii) to establish and sustain a national system, operational by 2018, for annual reporting by parishes and dioceses of the energy consumption of cathedrals, churches and church halls as a minimum; for calculation from data thus reported of the annual total of CO2 emissions; and for monitoring progress towards the Shrinking the Footprint targets for savings of 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050;
(d) call on the Archbishop’s Council, urgently to assess and furnish such human and financial resources as may be proper and necessary to enable the aforesaid work by the Shrinking the Footprint team and Mission & Public Affairs Division.”
(The above motion was discussed at General Synod in July 2018, and approved overwhelmingly in February 2019, with one amendment, after a review of its resources implications.)
It is widely recognised that climate change is not merely a question of meteorology – hardly that at all in fact – it is an economic and a security threat and much else. It is an abuse of God’s creation, and it is a question of justice – God’s standards of justice – with a bearing on our duties towards the poor and oppressed, and to people who will come after us in the future.
It is also right that we recall and affirm the many positive steps taken by the World, by faith groups and the Church of England already. Here is a brief list:
2015 Paris agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
2016 Interfaith Climate Change declaration
2015 ‘Laudato Si’ Encyclical of Pope Francis I
2016 Appointment of Archbishop of Canterbury as honorary Chairman and Patron, Anglican Communion Environment Network (ACEN)
Church of England
2005 ‘Sharing God’s Planet’ report to General Synod
2006 Faber Maunsell (now AECOM) estimates of energy use and carbon emissions by the Church of England in 2005
2009 ‘Church and Earth’ report
2014 Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) Ethical Investment Policy.
So measures are already being taken, and there are heartening new signs of international and inter-sectoral cooperation, to try to tackle the climate threat. The Church of England and this Diocese should and will continue to promote such worldwide action.
But aspiration and advocacy must be matched with action to mitigate the impacts of the Church’s own estate and operations. This too is happening, with the Diocese of London among those leading the way. Especially in one area – we are actually measuring the energy use and carbon footprint of our churches, as we have seen. This is the only way to know that we are reducing them, and by how much.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Church of England is not yet doing the same, on a regular basis, as we are. There are reasons for this. A national assessment was made in respect of 2005 – our chosen base year – and a more recent estimate in 2012 seemed to indicate progress. But it was a very approximate estimate, with demonstrable weaknesses, and it proved unfeasible to continue it regularly.
Therefore some new system is needed – and that is what we are proposing, as part of a national plan to move forward on all fronts.
Environment and Sustainability Presentation Synod 19 July 2016
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