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 March 2024
The custom of giving up something pleasurable for Lent goes back a long way and many people still like to follow it. Others choose to take on a new challenge, so, for those people, here are some creation-friendly ideas. How about choosing one a week – something new for you - for the remaining weeks of Lent?
- Swap your plastic bottles of shower gel and shampoo for blocks of soap and shampoo
- Use re-useable bags to buy loose fruit and veg in the supermarket
- Go through your cupboards/freezer and make a meal out of some foods which need to be used up
- Time your shower and try to keep it under 4 minutes
- Repair an item of clothing
- Walk or cycle to somewhere you would normally drive to
- Refill your bottles of washing up liquid and other household cleaning products (at the Fairtrade Shop)
- Use the bus or the train
- Increase the number of vegetarian or vegan meals you eat by at least one per week
- Recycle your plastic bags and plastic film at the supermarket
- Calculate your carbon footprint
- Go for a walk in a green space and see how many different wild flowers you can see/identify.
- Check your electricity consumption and think how you could reduce it
- Buy something for the Foodbank
- Buy a new fairtrade product or other ethically sourced product
- Use a lower temperature on the washing machine or dishwasher
- Avoid bottled water
- Measure the water you need for your cup of tea and don’t fill the kettle more than that.
- Turn down the heat; wear more clothes!
- Find a use for something that you were going to throw away
Item from February 2024
So, the statistics are in for last year and it is official; 2023 was the world’s hottest year by a large and unexpected margin, providing “dramatic testimony” of how much warmer and more dangerous today’s climate is from the cooler one in which human civilisation developed. So say scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS). The planet was 1.48C hotter in 2023 compared with the period before the mass burning of fossil fuels ignited the climate crisis. The figure is very close to the 1.5C temperature target set by countries in Paris in 2015 and the CCCS say it is likely the 1.5C mark will be passed for the first time in the next 12 months. However, the global temperature would need to be consistently above 1.5C for the target to be considered broken.
The average temperature in 2023 was 0.17C higher than in 2016, the previous record year, marking a very large increase in climate terms. The primary cause of this increased global heating was continued record emissions of carbon dioxide, assisted by the return of the natural climate phenomenon El Niño. The high temperatures drove heatwaves, floods and wildfires, damaging lives and livelihoods across the world. Analysis showed some extreme weather, such as heatwaves in Europe and the US, would have been virtually impossible without human-caused global heating.
In the UK one of the expectations from a warming climate is milder but wetter winters and the recent flooding in this country would seem to be indicative of this trend. The cost of repairs and rebuilding and the threat to food supplies as crops are damaged are becoming an increasing burden wherever these extreme weather events take place. Indeed, the effects of climate change cannot be divorced from the broader economy, and we are at a point where the cost of moving away from our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels will be nothing to the cost, otherwise, of dealing with an impending climate catastrophe. Akshat Rathi, a climate reporter with financial news outlet Bloomberg, argues that it is possible for a capitalist economy to cut carbon pollution without killing markets or competition as “it is now cheaper to save the world than destroy it.”
Many governments – and of course the oil and gas producing countries and companies – are very slow and reluctant to act, often citing costs in the short term. There are good news stories, however, as climate friendly initiatives are introduced by individuals, companies and governments. It is interesting and encouraging to see that Shell’s board is currently facing a shareholder rebellion as large investors including the UK’s biggest pension scheme are preparing to back a climate activist resolution which calls for the oil company to set bigger emissions reduction targets to align them with the 2015 Paris agreement.
A nice example of a climate-friendly innovation is an investment by Octopus Energy into a green tech start-up firm, Deep Green, who have been piloting using the wasted heat generated by data processing centres to heat public swimming pools. Processing data produces a lot of this free heat and the idea could ultimately extend to such things as leisure centres and district heating networks.
On a negative note, COP 29 this year will again be hosted by a petro-state heavily dependent on fossil fuel production, Azerbaijan. The 28 members of its organising committee have just been announced and almost all are government ministers or officials, including the head of the state security service and the head of Azerbaijan’s state gas distribution network. (And not one is a woman!)
Following a backlash against the all-male make up of the COP29 Organising Committee, described as “regressive” and “shocking”, the president of Azerbaijan has now announced the addition of twelve women.
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!