The Church and the Environment

On 12th February, General Synod debated the Diocesan Synod Motion on Environmental Issues, (GS 1942A and GS 1942B), and on behalf of the Southwark Diocesan Synod, the Revd Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) moved:

13 ‘That this Synod:

(a) recognising the damage being done to the planet through the burning of fossil fuels;

(b) aware of the huge reserves held by gas, oil and coal extraction industries;

(c) committing itself to taking seriously our Christian responsibility to care for the planet (“the earth is the Lord’s”);

(d) acknowledging the financial responsibilities of the Church’s national Investing bodies; and

(e) noting that a review of recommended ethical investment policy with regard to climate change has been begun by the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (‘EIAG’)

(i) call upon the national investing bodies to ensure that their investment policy (including the option of disinvestment) is aligned with the theological, moral and social priorities of the Church which find expression in the reports “Sharing God’s Planet” and “Church and Earth 2009-2016” and in the “Shrinking the Footprint” campaign;

(ii) call upon the EIAG to publish the report of its review by the end of 2014; and

(iii) agree to the establishment of a General Synod Working Group on the Environment, to monitor this and other environmental issues.’

Synod voted in favour of the motion, subject to an amendment whereby point (iii) was replaced by

(iii) request the Archbishops’ Council to reconstitute the Shrinking the Footprint working group, so that it reports direct to the Council, to monitor, facilitate co-ordination and promote the responses of all parts of the Church of England to environmental challenges.


Synod’s amendment is significant and encompasses the opinion put forward in the Background Note from the Ethical Investment Advisory Group,  GS 1942B: that is unlikely that ‘the establishment of a General Synod Working Group on the Environment, to monitor this [ethical investment &c] and other environmental issues’ would be effective unless ‘the Synod debate suggests new dimensions and stronger authority for a new Working Group, and if such a group is created it should replace the Shrinking the Footprint Steering Group, not duplicate it.

“Modified rapture”

As we have noted elsewhere, the Church’s national carbon reduction programme, has been promoted on a ‘top down’ basis, with Shrinking the Footprint, (StF), as ‘a cross-divisional campaign involving both the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division and Mission and Public Affairs’, ‘aimed at helping the Church’s 44 dioceses and 16,200 churches reduce their carbon footprint’.

The Church is committed to a carbon reduction target of 80% by 2050, with an interim target of 42% by 2020. The excellent Energy Audit Report 2012/13 details the 2012/13 carbon footprint of energy-use in the Church’s built estate, involving more than a year of gathering energy data from buildings across the country as part of the National Energy Audit. But note the limited data set and check the gaps on the Renewable Energy Systems map.

The issue, therefore, is that delivery of these targets is primarily a regional and local issue, as are other improvements in the environmental area. What is required, therefore, is an organizational infrastructure that sets SMART[1] targets for each diocese and other relevant parts of the Church, and ensures that these are met. As the Bishop of London, Chair of Shrinking the Footprint, has stated:

“The mitigation of climate change may have receded from public attention as a result of the financial turbulence but it is vital that Christians keep faith with the themes rightly described by the Diocesan Environment Officers as central to our engagement in mission in today’s world.”

[1] Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

4 thoughts on “The Church and the Environment

  1. Pingback: The Church of England mustn’t waste this opportunity to address the ravages of climate change « God and Politics in the UK

  2. Pingback: Climate change and the CofE | Law & Religion UK

  3. Pingback: Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change | Law & Religion UK

  4. Pingback: Climate change, the Archbishop and the Pope | Law & Religion UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *