The Church of England has set an ambitious target to become net-zero by 2030, bringing forward its initial proposed target by fifteen years.
The church’s Synod (council) was due to meet and vote on their Live Lent environmental campaign in February, which proposed a 2045 net-zero carbon target. However, the church voted instead for an amendment brought forward by the Diocese of Bristol. The amendment called for a much more ambitious target of net-zero by 2030 — advancing the commitment by a period of fifteen years.
Following the vote, it has been confirmed that it will be used to encourage the whole of the Church of England to ramp up their environmental efforts, and a motion has been approved to put in place measures to enable this.
The target is for the Church of England to become net-zero by 2030 which would mean a significant change in the way it operates over a relatively short space of time. It will involve cutting emissions across their operations, and everyone involved with the Church, including small churches and cathedrals, will have to pull their weight.
Taking climate change seriously
For several years, the Church of England has been mystifyingly quiet about climate change, preferring to err on the side of caution with its position.
Now, this has changed. The amendment came following pressure on the Church to take climate change more seriously, and it could not have come at a better time with climate-linked events around the world wreaking havoc.
These include the Australian bushfires which decimated the country and catastrophic flooding across Britain by Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, which saw villages and towns submerged. These are but two of the catastrophic events that have taken place in the three months leading up to the Church of England’s vote.
The church sees climate change as a social justice issue just as much as it is an environmental one, what with climate change affecting the world’s poorest soonest and most severely. They hope that by showing an ambitious commitment to net-zero, they can hold others to account and get their house in order.
What can the church do?
The church is launching an energy monitoring system to assess the carbon footprint of its buildings. Based on the data they receive they plan to make improvements to churches and cathedrals to slash carbon emissions from heating.
It has been suggested that the Church of England could stop heating cathedrals entirely to hit the target, although this could affect visitor numbers. It is more likely they will settle on a cleaner heating method, with heat pumps a viable option.
Another way they can lower their carbon footprint is with LED lighting. LED lighting uses at least 75% less energy than traditional bulbs.
They could also move away from gas and oil to greener energy. For example, they could switch their energy supplier to one who sells green energy (energy cultivated from a renewable source, like wind or hydro). This would solve the biggest net-zero issue a lot of organisations face – where the energy they use comes from.
Priests and other people in service of the church also have an important role to play too, and travel is one area where improvements could be made. For instance, public transport when full is significantly less polluting per passenger than cars.
Whichever way the Church of England sees fit to cut emissions all parts of the church have a role to play, and it’ll be interesting to see how they go about it.