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Nine Years Till Zero

by Michael Ford last modified 29 Oct, 2021 09:08 PM

Our Diocesan Environmental champions have welcomed the Church of England’s aim to be net zero in nine years, but on the eve of COP26, they warn that there is much to do, and we need to start now!

Nine Years Till Zero

Original photo by Karsten Wurth on Unsplash

As world leaders meet for the global summit on climate change in Glasgow,  the Church of England  had launched their wide-reaching consultation with the aim of getting net carbon zero  by 2030. 

The consultation which was drawn up by the national working group on Net Zero that includes our own Diocesan Secretary, David Pain (see page 37 here) came with an invitation for feedback and here in this Diocese, with the environment high on our list of priorities, those giving feedback haven’t pulled their punches. 

“We’d better get a move on!”

“It will be a very busy year of progress; we can only hope this schedule is achievable.” 

“Let's acknowledge that we can't hang onto the way that things have been up till now.” 

Having read the consultation paper in detail, David Morgan, Chair of our Diocesan Environment Group commented: 

"Well done to the national working group on Net Zero (including our own Diocesan Secretary) for setting down a comprehensive plan across the many sectors of the Church with very sensible-looking steps. There are substantial lists of actions being proposed at the national level which should give dioceses, parishes and schools tools to measure carbon footprints and frameworks for action. This will save a huge level of duplication across the country. 

But David also felt more communication in advance about the consultation would have been helpful: 

"It would have been nice to know that this was coming – it would have saved us some effort. Many of the actions have 2022 against them, so it will be a very busy year of progress; we can only hope this schedule is achievable. 

"It is excellent to see that finally the environment is being Included as part of basic ministerial training. It is essential that future clergy are adequately trained, and this is an area where there has been some reluctance in the past! There is also a strong emphasis on carbon literacy training for diocesan staff and volunteers which would be very helpful. Currently only a few of us labour in this vital area of training, and a course which is CofE-specific would be most useful.

David also had some concerns: 

"My concerns surround how we are going to deliver the changes. Firstly, and most importantly, having the manpower to do the work required at diocese, parish and school level at this time of huge budget pressures. Secondly, having the funding necessary to make the changes to buildings and land which are going to be integral to achieving Net Zero carbon. The latter is somewhat addressed in the fundraising section, but the former is not really touched on. 

"I am also pleased to see that carbon offsetting (eg planting trees) is clearly identified as the tool to use once the reductions have been done; it must never be used as an excuse for not making those reductions. 

"I am hopeful that the planned national Church communications will bring this to the attention of all church members, and that including carbon reporting in APCM reports and archdeacons’ enquiries will encourage good conversations about carbon reductions. 

"The Diocesan Environment Group will no doubt welcome this document and will input into the consultation before the deadline in February. We very much hope it will emerge as the official CoE Route Map to Net Zero in the near future."  

But Revd Br Alasdair Kay CFC, Rector of Wyke Regis, All Saints and St Edmund, who has campaigned tirelessly to highlight climate change, warned the ambitions do have a short shelf life: 

"Nine years? Well we’d better get a move on!" 

And Alasdair added a few actions we could all do that would really make a difference:  

"Ultimately, The Church of England must get its money out of Fossil Fuels. I was overjoyed to hear from Bishop Karen that we had been pro-active in decarbonising our investments as a Diocese. However Pensions and surrounding Diocese still have investments in Fossil Fuels. I have to say when I first read this article it felt that it might be like greenwash to me. 

  • Go online and have a look at what Barclays and HSBC are up to with investments in Fossil Fuels. Moving Bank Account sends a message especially when you tell them why you are moving Bank. 

  • Become an Eco Church and make it a fixed item on a PCC Agenda. Until we treat the environment with the same urgency and effort as we have cleaning up our Act in terms of Safeguarding we will not see the change we need. We insist that PCC members do Safeguarding Training, and rightly so, why not the Creation? 

  • For many years, Christians would not eat meat on a Friday and in Lent and Advent. If we made this a regular part of our discipleship what a difference It would make in terms of Greenhouse Gasses. Fasting also reminds us of the pain of the planet. Cutting our Consumption is critical to tackling Climate Change. 

  • Support both Activists and Conservationists in your Church. Invite people from both groups to speak regularly and especially in Creationtide from the 15th of August until the 4th of October. 

  • Finally, ask your Deanery,  Diocesan, and General Synod reps to keep the Climate on the Agenda." 

He added:

"Most of our Diocese Vicarages have Gas or Oil Fired Heating which is hugely expensive and very polluting, not least expensive for clergy to pay for. A combination of better insulation, solar panels and air sourced heat pumps must be the way ahead and will help the Diocese to drop our Carbon Footprint. 

"Then and maybe then we might make it in Nine Years. It’s not as if we have much choice!" 

And the Revd Hilary Bond, climate activist, Schools Worker and Pioneer Priest for the Parish of Wareham, added: 

"We need to keep talking about this, we need to keep it under everybody's noses at every possible opportunity, every church meeting, every everything. The church needs to get out of fossil fuel investment now! But please, let’s not spend too long in consultation. Let’s not take too long looking for consensus.   

"I know that we love to give everyone a voice, but we need to get on with this.   

"Near the top of this report there is reference to an agenda item about the "ambitious goal to double the number of children and young people in churches.” Good stuff, but how about an ambitious goal to make sure those children and young people have a life-giving planet where they can live out their faith in action, rather than a dying world created by people who talked a lot but failed to match their actions to their words? 

"Let's also recognise that the cost is not going to just be financial. Christianity has always been about sacrifice, hasn't it? Let's acknowledge that we can't hang onto the way that things have been up till now, that we will need to let go some of the things that we have loved because they have made our lives easier and more comfortable, and let's find where God is in that letting go."  

The consultation is available here and is open until 5pm on Monday 28 February 2022. 

We would love to add your thoughts and comments to include in next week's issue of Grapevine, please email 

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