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Diocesan Synod Report 2018 on the Environment and Sustainability

Progress report on the Environment and Sustainability to Diocesan Synod on 21 February 2018, by the Head of Environment and Sustainability.

Pressing on


The Diocese has participated in the Church of England’s ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ campaign for more than a decade. Measurement of our churches’ energy use continues through the ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ questions in Parish Annual Returns. 2016 showed net savings by our churches since 2005 of 14.1% for energy and 10.4% for carbon. This is less apparent progress than we would wish for. However, at just under 50%, the number of respondents was again the highest of any year so far. Savings in electricity are expected to improve as low energy lighting is rolled out more and more, even though past savings have been almost entirely in gas. In the next year or two, we should see tangible improvement across the board.

Work to reduce our energy use and resulting contribution to climate change is not limited to churches. Great progress has also been made on upgrading our parsonages, including the current programme to install double glazing (high on every incumbent’s wish list!)

May I highlight just two other projects out of the multitude that are in progress:

• The Diocese remains an enthusiastic supporter of Eco Church, the environmental scheme for churches run by A Rocha UK. It provides tools to help churches weave their response to environmental issues into all that they do. More than 800 churches of all denominations are now signed up to the scheme, including 36 in the Diocese of London (well above the average). Of these, one (St James’s Piccadilly) is now a Silver award holder, and eight others (the Cathedral, 6 parish churches and St Ethelburga’s Centre) have received Bronze awards. Our target for the end of 2017 was 80 participants and 8 awards – the second of these targets has been met but not yet the first. Every church is encouraged to sign up and work towards its Eco Church award.

• 2017 saw the launch of an exceptional programme of environmental audits to our churches in Islington, part of Cloudesley’s 500th Anniversary Grants Programme. All 24 eligible churches are taking part, and audits of their energy, carbon, water and waste have been completed by environmental consultants AECOM, as well as a group report summarising their findings for the whole deanery. These audits will lead to a programme of works to each church, drawn from options recommended in their audit, also granted aided by Cloudesley.

All 24 sites have also taken part in our own Energy-saving Benchmarking programme, yielding valuable in-depth analysis of each church’s efficiency in terms of energy per se, and in relation to how intensively it is occupied and used for worship and mission. This Deanery is an excellent example of how these two aims should be complementary not contradictory. Islington Deanery compares favourably with the Diocese as a whole, in both respects.

Heathrow Airport expansion

The history of proposals for expansion of Heathrow (LHR) is long and tangled. An earlier scheme was discussed by Synod on 12th March 2009, which adopted a report concluding “… that the Diocese should oppose the development of a new third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow”.

In 2016, the UK Government decided to support a new scheme for a new north-west runway (LHR-NWR), in a different position to that previously proposed, now extending across the boundary into Oxford Diocese. This scheme avoids some of the worst consequences of previous iterations: impacts on Harlington and Cranford are much reduced, while it appears that St Mary’s Harmondsworth may not actually be demolished (constant vigilance is needed on this aspect). But the impacts on communities remain severe. It is hard to see how St Mary’s can continue as a viable parish church, while the southern part of Harmondsworth, the whole of Longford, and part of Sipson village will still be erased. The green belt and natural environment to the west will be further encroached upon, while the effects in terms of noise, air pollution (London-wide) and carbon emissions have yet to be adequately addressed. On the other hand, wider potential economic benefits are acknowledged.

LHR-NWR was the subject of two successive consultations by the Department for Transport. The Diocese’s responses were authorised by Bishop’s Council in May 2017 (by correspondence) and at its meeting on 16th November 2017. The first was a joint response by the Dioceses of London, Oxford and Southwark (DoLOS); the second was by the Diocese of London alone.

The joint DoLOS response received favourable notices in the report by the government’s consultants on all responses to the DfT, and also in the Church Times and elsewhere. Both responses, while strongly criticising the latest proposals, stopped just short of outright opposition. Synod now has the opportunity to re-affirm its 2009 policy of opposing Heathrow expansion.

Should Synod so choose, it is suggested that the quotation from page 28 of the March 2009 report (first para of this section) should be adopted, since much of the detailed commentary in that report no long applies to the present scheme. In any event, it remains open to the Diocese to continue to respond to further consultations by the government and/or LHR. LHR has indeed just issued a consultation, to conclude on 28th March 2018.

It is suggested that any response to this and future consultations would need to be delegated to staff – subject to maintaining consistency with Synod’s conclusions at this meeting. Such consultations tend to be released out of the blue, and do not respect synodical timetables! (This was agreed, to be signed off by the Acting Bishop.)

In the longer term, should final development approval be granted, further consideration will in any event be needed in relation to the future of local churches and parochial arrangements, and land and property owned by the LDF within the development area.

Diocesan Synod Motion from Islington Deanery Synod

This motion was moved by John Wilson (Islington).

Commentary in this written report will be limited to the national background. The subject of disinvestment from the fossil fuels which are responsible for the major contribution to climate change has been widely debated in recent years. Motions to General Synod in 2014 by Southwark and Oxford Dioceses recommended partial or full disinvestment. Southwark’s motion was debated by Synod. Following this, a policy on climate change drafted by the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) was adopted by the Church Commissioners and other National Investment Bodies in 2015. This policy excludes investment in companies with >10% of their turnover in thermal coal (ie coal for electricity) and tar sands (the most polluting fossil fuels); it currently remains in force. Islington’s motion urges further extension and tightening of this policy.

Oxford Diocese’s motion has been held in abeyance since 2014. It stands in the queue for General Synod. Oxford was considering amending their motion anyway, to reflect progress since then. The opportunity for discussion was taken with a view to aligning the wordings of Oxford’s motion and Islington’s, to avoid any clash or need for either to give way to the other, and to secure the strength of a common position (as was achieved in relation to Heathrow). This same motion, as the attached text, is therefore for discussion by both diocesan synods.

Should the motion be passed by either or both Synods, it is hoped that time may be given on General Synod in July 2018 for this and other motions concerning the environment. These also include London Diocese’s motion from 2016 concerning reporting and monitoring progress in the Church of England’s efforts on climate change, and especially the need for nationwide measuring and monitoring of energy use and carbon emissions.

(Decision on this motion was deferred. A different motion with broadly similar objectives was passed after amendment by General Synod in July 2018.)

Environment and Sustainability, front page.

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