“For too long humankind has taken the environment for granted. Now that we see it threatened, we are at last waking up to the challenge of caring better for God’s earth. ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth,’ is one of the Five Marks of Mission. If it is not embraced wholeheartedly and with determination, the other four marks of mission lack credibility. The stewardship of creation is integral to our evangelism and mission.” Bishop Robert, January 2020
Carbon Net Zero – Energy Footprint Tool & Practical Path
General Synod agreed a motion in Feb 2020 to work towards ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2030 in all parts of the Church. This was an ambitious and complex target, even before the huge and varied new challenges caused by Covid-19 [see also Brief Thoughts…below]. Yet as we strive to safeguard creation, to love God and our neighbours (not least those around the world “who will be first and worst affected”), we must approach this with positive and urgent commitment.
We therefore encourage all churches to undertake 2 initial actions, as soon as time and energy allow:
- Complete the new and simple Energy Footprint Tool as part of your annual Parish Returns. This is a vital first step to help us benchmark current CO2 emissions and plan steps to net zero. By adding information from 2019 bills for your church (and hall) to pre-populated data, you receive energy efficiency ratings based on size and attendance, tips to make carbon savings, and annual progress updates. Guidance notes for building size / person hours (if not pre-popuated) are here. If you don’t usually do parish returns but would like to help, please liaise with your PCC.
- Read ‘The Practical Path To Net Zero Carbon For Our Churches’ – a very concise and helpful document from the Church of England (April 2020) with suggestions broken down into quick & easy first actions (and cheap/with fast payback), moving through to ‘What Next’ possibilities.
- “Reduce What You Can – Offset The Rest”. The local Christian charity, Climate Stewards, has brilliant resources on both aspects to help us understand and start implementing this essential approach needed to get to net zero.
- EcoChurch is a brilliant initiative of another Christian environmental charity, A Rocha. Its free online survey and supporting resources are designed to equip your church to express your care for God’s world in our worship and teaching; in how we look after buildings and land; in how we engage with our local communities and in global campaigns, and in the personal lifestyles of our congregations. The simple self-assessment tool leads to bronze, silver and gold awards: celebrating positive achievements, and providing springboard and direction for ongoing actions.
- Saying Yes To Life was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lent Book. Structured around the Days of Creation, Ruth Valerio relates themes of light, water, land, the seasons, other creatures, humankind, Sabbath rest and resurrection hope to matters of environmental, ethical and social concern. As ‘Global Advocacy & Influencing Director’ at Tearfund, Ruth includes powerful scriptural exegesis of these ‘Days’; delight and awe at the wonder of life in all its variety; ecological and climate science presented authoritatively and accessibly; personal stories, and international perspectives of poverty, inequity and positive developments and possibilities; and crucially, urgent exhortations for us all to Act. Follow the link to buy or download (free) the book; and to access video interviews with leading scientists and archbishops, etc.
- The Big Green Event took place in Exeter Cathedral in February 2020. Bishop Nick Holtam, the national environment lead, spoke powerfully on the net zero resolution just passed; with workshops, and Q&A panel, from a wide range of national and local experts. Some of their presentations – eg on biodiversity, community, ecochurch, energy, travel, lobbying, international perspectives, adaptation, and worship) can be viewed here.
- Christian Climate Action “is a community of Christians supporting each other to take meaningful action in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate breakdown. Inspired by Jesus Christ, and social justice movements of the past, we carry out acts of non-violent direct action to urge those in power to make the change needed.” Our new piece on this in 2019, is here. Please contact Liz, local coordinator, if you are interested in finding out more.
- The Melanesian Mission is an Anglican mission agency with historic and ongoing links to the Diocese of Exeter. It provides support to the Anglican Church of Melanesia (low lying islands in the Pacific ocean, including the Solomons), already experiencing life-changing/threatening effects of sea level rise. Its website contains many beautiful videos which help make the climate crisis very real right now.
- Many other international Christian charities treat climate change as our ‘biggest challenge’ – responding to it through direct mitigation and resilience actions around the world, as well as through political campaigning. See for example Christian Aid, Tearfund, and Anglican Alliance for brilliant information, prayer and worship resources, and to give/volunteer.
- Plymouth Churches Green Action is an excellent example of a local ecumenical environment group. Contact Nicky to join their mailing list packed with events and updates.
Brief thoughts on Covid-19 Implications for Net Zero Target
The Diocesan Environment Group responded to the Church of England Environment Working Group on the General Synod motion in April 2020, noting:
“Despite the very significant new challenges caused by Covid-19, we are committed to the principles in this General Synod resolution (with local policy to be developed). This current Covid-19 crisis reinforces:
- The terrible realities of health and socio-economic crises which can quickly hit our own nation, let alone other developing countries suffering long-term poverty, war or other disasters. We are conscious that the “existential threat of climate disruption” is likely to be even more challenging, and so also requires our committed action as soon as possible.
- The ability and power of local churches (alongside our local community and national responses) to make changes and take action quickly and effectively, as we seek to love our neighbour, and to love our Creator God. These new actions, attitudes and investments until recently may have never been previously conceived, or believed to be inconceivable.
Whilst responding with commitment and love to the immediate needs of the Covid-19 crisis and the economic and health implications, churches must also sensitively take opportunities to respond to this even greater crisis – getting ‘our own house’ in order, and collaborating positively with secular partners.”
The rapid loss of species and habitats is another extremely important crisis, with deep consequences for human health, wellbeing and even existence. As Bishop Robert said in the top quote, safeguarding God’s creation also gives integrity to the other marks of mission.
A Rocha UK is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world and committed to mobilising Christians and churches in the UK to care for the environment. Its website has extensive and excellent information and resources.
Caring For God’s Acre is a charity which helps maintain and restore biodiversity of churchyards – special and often unique habitats – as well as their positive use and accessibility for all.
David Curry is our volunteer environment adviser who set up Devon Living Churchyards. He offers bespoke advice to churches across the diocese to help create plans to best care for and welcome wildlife, whilst also engaging communities and promoting good mental and physical health. Please contact him here. (More details to follow).
Please contact Chris Keppie, Diocesan Environment Officer, if you would like to discuss any of the above, to share positive stories of what your church is doing, or to offer to volunteer in any way.
“It’s our sacred duty to protect the natural world we’ve so generously been given, as well as our neighbours around the world who will be first and worst affected. Without swift decisive action the consequences of climate change will be devastating.” Archbishop Justin Welby, Oct 2019