In September 2019, in the light of the climate and loss of biodiversity crises, Christ Church launched an “Eco -Group”, with the aim of examining our own responsibilities in this area. By working towards the A Rocha Eco-Church awards, we are looking at all aspects of church life, from the way we use our buildings and grounds to the worship and teaching and our individual lifestyles. Through regular input into Church meeting and items in our monthly magazine, Comment, these issues are kept in the foreground of our thinking. The most recent four articles in Comment can be found below.
Stop Press - JUNE 2023 - We have now been awarded the A Rocha Bronze Award - Certificate here
Item from December 2023/January 2024
This article first appeared in A Rocha UK's November eNews, and is reproduced with their permission. A Rocha UK arocha.org.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.
On 20 September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced radical changes to a raft of environmental policies in what he called a “pragmatic, proportionate and realistic” approach to net zero by 2050. In the last few weeks, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s own advisors on climate, have offered a blistering rebuttal. Far from ‘realistic’, the CCC have warned that these policy reversals have damaged the UK’s ability to meet our climate commitments and will keep energy bills high for millions of households
The announcements included delaying the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 to 2035, delaying the ban on installing oil and LPG boilers and new coal heating, in off-grid homes to 2035 rather than phasing them out from 2026, an exemption to the phase out of fossil fuel for the approximately one-fifth of UK homes who would struggle the most to switch to green alternatives, and scrapping of policies which would force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties. The prime minister defended these moves, saying that he is still committed to net zero commitments and trying to “bring the country along with us” and save families thousands by delaying the green pledges
Yet he has faced considerable criticism across business, politics (including several ex-Conservative PMs), and civil society, who have pointed out that this is a false economy which will not only cost more in the long run, but also put another nail in the coffin of the UK’s international climate leadership. Lisa Brankin, Chair of Ford UK, said that the delay on petrol and diesel vehicles undermines the “ambition, commitment and consistency” needed by industry from the government. While there was support from organisations representing rural communities for the delay in phasing out oil and gas boilers, citing the impact and cost on rural communities, the CCC looked over the numbers and, while the 2035 date for new fossil fuel boilers was “potentially compatible” with net zero by 2050, the exemption of 20% of households from the phase out will make “Net Zero considerably harder to achieve”. They also highlighted the widespread uncertainty this creates for consumers and supply chains. Similarly, the CCC found that pushing back efficiency requirements will cost renters about £325 a year more in bills. It also prolongs the chronic problem of cold, damp, poorly-insulated rental properties – properties that leak energy and can be a health hazard
In the same speech the prime minister also announced the scrapping of a series of fictional policies – policies which have never been proposed by the Conservative government or the Labour Party. This included a requirement for households to use seven bins, a tax on meat, and compulsory car sharing. It’s easy to laugh at the idea of seven bins lined up outside your house on bin day, but it all points to a much deeper problem. A willingness of senior politicians to deliberately use false narratives to win votes and advance their agenda risks turning the environment into a wedge issue between political parties. This undermines public understanding of the issue, but also fractures the cross-party consensus in the UK, which has held fast since the 2008 Climate Change Act. Secondly, it also undermines the authority of independent, expert-led advisory bodies like the Climate Change Committee. It’s important that the current government (and the next, whatever its hue) has the courage to have an honest debate about environmental issues, guided by the evidence rather than their political ambitions, and invests in building political consensus around protecting people and the planet. And, it’s more important than ever that we pray for politicians and speak up on behalf of creation
Item from November 2023
What is our carbon footprint and what should we be doing about it?
We are all, by now, quite familiar with the term “carbon footprint”, meaning, of course, the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. Literally the “footprint” or mark we leave on the planet by what we do and how we live.
This might be calculated for a business, for example, or a particular event or product – or by any of us as individuals. Working out any carbon footprint is a complex matter but there are many online surveys available which enable us to get an idea of how much our own individual lifestyles are adding to the CO2 in the atmosphere. To put figures into context, one calculation is that the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is around 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world, and for a person in the UK around 9 tons (11 tons in IP4, according to the WWF survey!) Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons. According to the Nature Conservancy, to have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050. So, we in the UK and the developed world have a long way to go.
There will be some lifestyle changes that are beyond our individual control – it may be impossible or too expensive to insulate an old property, there may be no public transport available in a rural area or any access to locally grown food in a particular part of town. But some changes, where possible - not eating beef, not flying are quick wins - can significantly reduce an individual’s carbon footprint and we should be considering them. Of course we need governments and businesses to act more urgently, but the actions and choices of millions of individuals can do much not just to reduce harmful emissions but to influence companies and challenge our culture of over consumption.
We are all encouraged to measure our own carbon footprint. You could search for the WWF Footprint Calculator, the Open University Carbon Calculator or the Climate Hero Carbon Calculator, all of which are simple to use, but there are many others. They all work in slightly different ways and measure slightly different things so exact results do vary – but will be interesting!
Item from October 2023
Some bullet points from the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit held in New York in September
• Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, said, dramatically, that “humanity‘as opened the gates of‘ell” by
unleashing worsening‘eatwaves, floods and wildfires and that a “dangerous and unstable” future of 2.8C
global heating, compared with the pre-industrial era, was awaiting without radical action. “The future of
humanity is in our‘ands….. We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed
of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.”
• Most of the world’s biggest carbon emitters were absent, including Joe Biden, president of the US, Xi Jinping,
president of China, France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi and Britain’s‘ishi“unak. Kelly Sims
Gallagher, a former White House advisor, said “Their absence is illustrative of the point we aren’t taking
seriously the magnitude of the task right now….. If we were serious, all of them would be at the table
• Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said that “this climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. It’s not
complicated. It’s the burning of oil. It’s the burning of gas. It’s the burning of coal. And we need to call that
out…. For decades and decades, the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for
fools. They have been buying off politicians. Their deceit and denial going back decades, have created the
conditions that persist here today.”
• Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, said“We are in the final stages of the actions needed to preserve
this planet and regrettably I don’t think everyone is getting it….. It’s painful to continue to see that you are
asking us to increase borrowing to build resilient infrastructure for something we didn’t do, and at the same
time you want to also ensure you have a loss and damage fund that doesn’t‘ave the adequate means for
grant funding to help countries rebuild. It’s unconscionable and almost a crime against humanity.”
• David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute said “The
small steps countries offered are welcome, but they’re like trying to put out an inferno with a leaking‘ose.
There is simply a huge mismatch between the depth of actions governments and businesses are taking and
the transformative shifts that are needed to address the climate crisis.”
World leaders will meet again to discuss the climate crisis at COP 28, to be held in Dubai in November.
Item from September 2023
It has surely been impossible to be unaware this year of the heatwaves, drought, floods and wildfires occurring in many parts of the world. Scientists agree these weather events can only have become so severe because of the effects of human induced climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels. One statistic will suffice; the earth endured the hottest week ever recorded between 3-10 July this year. We are already in uncharted territory with changes to our weather patterns happening faster than even the climate scientists expected.
One worry about a hotter world is its effect on agriculture and food production. The president of the UN’s desertification conference (yes, there is such a thing), Alain-Richard Donwahi of the Ivory Coast, has warned that the world is likely to face major disruption to food supplies well before temperatures rise by the 1.5C target. A figure which, however, it is now considered we are likely to exceed. He said the problems of rising temperatures, heatwaves and more intense droughts and floods were endangering food security in many regions. Areas which have previously grown food are turning to desert while elsewhere floods and storms destroy crops. “Look at the effects of droughts on food security, the , the effect of . We could have an acceleration of negative effects, other than temperature,” he said.
At the end of the BBC series, “Earth”, Chris Packham said this; “The climate is changing at a faster rate than at any time in the last 66 million years. I’ve seen so much of the natural world that I cherish destroyed that it’s difficult not to be pessimistic but, ironically, when I go searching for hope I don’t turn to planetary forces, I turn to the power of humanity. Because for all of our flaws, all of our foolishness, we are a truly remarkable species. Adaptable, resourceful, inventive, intelligent, creative. You might argue that our most significant turning points were perhaps standing up on two legs, beginning to walk or drawing those animals on the cave walls or inventing farming or even landing on the moon. But I need to argue that these were just our dress rehearsals, because in the very near future our species will need to reach the zenith of its achievements and that all humanity will have to learn to put our Earth first. That unique, beautiful, fragile Earth, that for 4 billion years has been forming this stage on which we now stand and is waiting for our finest performance. And if we don’t pull it off then of course life on this planet will continue to prosper but there will be no encore for humanity.”
Meanwhile, politicians in the UK seem intent on scaling back climate pledges in the (misguided?) hope that this will win them votes.
“All humanity will have to learn to put our Earth first.” So, are we going to be up to this challenge? To put the health of our God-given world at the absolute forefront of our thinking – and actions?