members confirm their commitment to be net zero by 2030

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Net zero roadmap

A THE ROAD MAP Achieving net zero carbon emissions churchwide by 2030 was endorsed by General Synod, after debate was interrupted by climate activists calling for fossil fuel divestment.

Presenting his motion, the Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham Usher, the senior bishop for the environment, reminded members of the previous synod’s support in 2020 for an amended motion to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, years earlier than the plan initial (News, February 14, 2020). The document Roadmap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030would help the Church achieve this ambitious goal, he said.

Every month of delay in reducing emissions would lead to suffering and death for both our “human neighbors and the rest of God’s creation,” Bishop Usher continued. Achieving net zero was central to the church’s call to be stewards of creation, he said. The The road map was pragmatic and step-by-step – a willing guide rather than a top-down order. If reaching net zero was a list of ten things, eight of them would be simple, he reassured the Synod. In addition, Church Commissioners had pledged £190million to help dioceses and churches make the changes needed to cut emissions, he reported.

Bishop Usher related the words of a young woman from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, who had written to him this week. She had urged the C of E to cut emissions urgently as climate change was already causing flooding in her homeland. In conclusion, Bishop Usher released a video for the Synod, which featured a series of stories from different dioceses, churches and schools that were already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, including installing new heating systems, solar panels solar panels and heat pumps. .

The Church needed to “expand and accelerate” during this crucial decade, he said.

Canon Martin Gainsborough (Bristol), who had introduced the amendment that brought forward the goal of net zero to 2030 (from 2050), welcomed the The road map. The Church, he suggested, was “slowly and reluctantly” moving closer to the changed goal. The goal was within reach, even though the road was difficult.

Reverend Dr Che Seabourne (Leeds) admitted he was a climatic hypocrite at times, driving to meetings rather than taking the bus, staying in the shower too long and leaving the lights on. But regardless of individual failings, he continued, everyone has a collective responsibility to act. In addition to net zero, he urged all church institutions to also completely divest from fossil fuels. He urged the Synod to vote for the The road map movement in its strongest form.

Sam Atkins/Church TimesThe Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the Senior Bishop for the Environment

Reverend Sonia Barron (Lincoln) also supported the motion, speaking of his responsibility to act on behalf of his Christian brothers and sisters in other countries already facing climate catastrophe. She praised the resources of environmental charity A Rocha, which all churches could adopt, she said. Climate action was not a fringe interest, she argued, but a central part of Christian discipleship.

Clive Scowen (London) then moved its first amendment, which sought to maximize support by changing the wording to “generally agreeing” with the The road map. He hoped this would allow people who had objections to parts of the document to continue to vote in favor.

Bishop Usher resisted this amendment, urging the Synod not to waste time on minor semantic amendments, but to return to the substantive debate on net zero. He warned that young people were frustrated with how the Church was constantly “watering down” its commitments.

Gavin Drake (Southwell & Nottingham) opposed the amendment. Had the Church of England not reached net zero by 2030 it would have been considered a failure, he said.

Roy Faulkner (Leicester) said the 2030 target was a “naive signal of virtue” and money spent on it could be directed to funding more priests. He also suggested that poverty would increase if emissions were cut too severely, causing economic collapse.

Reverend Graham Hamilton (Exeter) supported the amendment and echoed Mr Scowen’s fears that without him the whole motion and The road map could stumble. He also raised concerns about adding environmental justice and theology to the selection criteria for ordination.

Carl Hughes (Southwark), citing the advice of the diocesan environmental officer, supported the amendment for similar reasons. Emissions from the C of E accounted for around 0.04% of the UK’s total footprint, he noted. Moreover, the largest Church emitters were individual churches and schools, which were not under the control of dioceses, and therefore could only be encouraged to reduce carbon. “We have to be realistic that we may not be able to eliminate all forms of emissions in the current timeframe,” he concluded.

The amendment was rejected.

Mr Scowen then moved a second amendment, to replace the word “structures” with “buildings and operations”, clarifying where the motion called on dioceses to reduce emissions.

Bishop Usher again resisted for the same reasons. “Structures” were much larger than buildings and operations, he said.

Luke Appleton (Exeter) argued that greater precision was helpful.

The Dean of Southwarkthe Very Reverend Andrew Nunn (Southern Deans), resisted the amendment, describing the broader term “structures” as the ideal word.

Reverend Martin Poole (Chichester) also objected for the same reason.

This amendment was lost.

Continuing the debate on the main motion, the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, hailed the roadmap as the best way to address the climate emergency in the limited time remaining. The UK Committee on Climate Change has suggested that 60% of the change required comes from individuals, particularly in the areas of transport and buildings.

Reverend Ruth Newton (Leeds) described the 2030 target vote in 2020 as “unexpected and prophetic”. Christians could not be part of the Body of Christ and do nothing about the climatic suffering endured by other believers around the world, she said. She praised The road map to offer not only ways to decarbonise the Church, but also to equip Anglicans to be environmental activists.

Prudence Dailey (Oxford) noted how life had been improved “immeasurably” by the industrial revolution fueled by fossil fuels. She asked if a cost-benefit analysis had been done of the roadmap. What effect on global temperatures would the Church’s net zero in 2030 have, she asked. The problem would only be solved by technological advances, she argued.

John Spence (Council of Archbishops), which chairs the finance committee, said he was angered by the changed target in 2020 because he feared it was financially unachievable. He warned that it would take time to mobilize the new funds released by the commissioners and called for patience.

Fiona Norris (Salisbury) said the costs of meeting the 2030 target were difficult to predict and solar panel costs had fallen in recent years. The savings from decarbonization were higher than ever before, and delaying action could actually cost more than less.

Before a final vote on the motion could be called, protesters from Christian Climate Action came to the floor of the chamber and unfurled a large banner demanding “Churches Divest Now”. The meeting was briefly adjourned while they were removed.

The motion is then clearly carried:

That this Synod, having recognized that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and a fundamental injustice, and following the General Synod’s motion passed in February 2020 to plan to achieve net zero carbon by 2030:

a) approve the “Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030” (GS 2258);

b) ask each diocesan synod to discuss the roadmap as it applies to their structures, parishes and BMOs, and agree on an achievable program of action to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 ;

c) ask the major energy users within the Church (every cathedral, TEI, school, office and the top 20% of churches using energy) to develop an action plan in the same way, with a clear timetable, based on the Routemap; and

d) request the environmental staff team to report to Synod on progress against the roadmap in 2025, 2028, and 2031, and for reports on the Church’s carbon emissions each year .

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