Originally called ‘Shrinking the Footprint’, the Church of England Environment Programme gives leadership, information and support to dioceses and churches on Caring for God’s Creation.
The Diocese of London first adopted the ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ campaign in 2006, and continues a committed supporter and advocate of the national CoE Environment Programme.
The footprint referred to includes the impacts of all we do on the natural environment, which is God’s Creation. This is mainly the energy use and carbon footprint of our buildings; it is crucial that these should be radically reduced.
Every church, congregation and church member needs to be involved in this effort. It forms a major part of the Diocese’s programmes on Caring for God’s Creation.
The Five Marks of Mission
The Five Marks of Mission were established by the worldwide Anglican Communion. Care for the environment is mandated by the Fifth Mark of Mission, ‘striving to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth’. It also involves aspects of all the others:
- The Good News of the Kingdom includes the redemption of ‘all things’ (Col 1:20).
- The teaching of new believers should include communicating the need to care for God’s Creation.
- Human need includes the needs of the many people caught up every day in the effects of environmental degradation.
- Unjust structures include the promotion of consumerism, the dominance of economic growth at any price, the accumulation of disproportionate resources by a few.
Every church in the Diocese is encouraged to sign up to Eco Church, the nationwide Christian environmental awards scheme, and to take action towards gaining an Eco Church award.
Participation in Eco Church helps to build environmmental concern into every aspect of the church’s worship and mission.
184 churches in the Diocese have registered with Eco Church since 2016. 88 of these have gained awards, including two Gold awards.
Energy use and carbon emissions
In February 2020, the General Synod of the Church of England set a target of reaching Net Zero carbon across the whole Church of England by 2030.
Carbon emissions (CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs)) that we emit into the atmosphere, especially from energy use in our buildings, add to climate change. ‘Net Zero Carbon’ means reducing those emissions as much as possible, then balancing the rest with equal amounts taken out of the atmosphere, for example by generating renewable energy, or planting trees.
In March 2020, London Diocesan Synod established a revised Diocesan Environmental Policy, affirming and adopting the motion passed by General Synod.
We must start by putting our own house in order – planning and managing reductions in GHG emissions for which the Diocese and churches are responsible.
Routemap to Net Zero
The Church of England has published its national Net Zero Carbon Routemap.
The Diocese of London is currently developing its Net Zero Carbon Plan for the Diocese.
Parish Annual Returns
The first step towards cutting carbon emissions from buildings and working to make them net zero is to measure their energy use.
Energy and carbon emissions from churches in the Diocese have been measured and reported since 2005, using the system of Parish Annual Returns.
This now forms part of the national Church of England system of online Annual Returns, Energy Footprint Tool. This gathers information on energy use, and uses that to calculate and report carbon emissions.
Practical Path to Net Zero
The Church of England has published guidance on how churches can work towards becoming net zero carbon:
Climate Action Programme
Efforts by churches in the Diocese of London to measure and reduce their energy use and carbon emissions are supported by the Diocese’s Climate Action Programme.
This has included programmes of Environmental Audits, the Diocese’s Generic Building Solutions programme, and a bespoke system of Energy-Saving Benchmarking.
Climate Action Projects
Having measured and benchmarked energy use and carbon emissions, the next step is to make changes to buildings and their pattern of use so as to increase efficiency and drive down emissions.
A wide range of such Climate Action Projects have been undertaken. This includes projects funded by Cloudesley’s 500th Anniversary Grants Programme, as well as many others around all parts of the Diocese.
Guidance for churches planning projects
A range of guidance is published by the Church of England.
Some of this guidance is now mandatory. That means churches are required to have proper regard to it where relevant, but are not obliged to follow it.
Based on data from Parish Annual Returns and now the Energy Footprint Tool, together with the latest data from earlier years, we now know that churches in the Diocese of London achieved the following efficiency improvements from 2005 – 2021:
- 28.8% improvement in energy efficiency, net of renewable energy
- 41.8% efficiency improvements in net carbon dioxide (CO2e) emissions.
Wildlife and biodiversity
The Diocese’s contribution to the national Church of England Environment Programme also includes promoting the care of wildlife in churchyards.
This has been the focus of the Diocese’s Churchyards for London programme.
Water and waste
Alongside efforts to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions, churches are encouraged and supported in conserving water and disposing of their waste, with a view to achieving zero to landfill recycling.
Churches and members of their congregations are encouraged to minimise the impact on the environment and climate of their travel arrangements, especially to and from church.
Lifestyle and food
Every church and congregation member is encouraged to consider the impact of their personal lives on the environment, and to make informed choices which help us better in caring for God’s Creation.
Net Zero case studies
Temporary heating options
CoE resources for churches.
Living as a Christian: Five Marks of Mission
Diocesan Synod Report 2022 on the Environment and Sustainability
Environmental work so far.
Christian environmental charities
A Rocha UK
Operation Noah (ON).
Caring for God’s Creation
Head of Environment and Sustainability
Environment and Sustainability, front page.