July Synod: plans for “net zero carbon” by 2030

On 23 June, the Church of England announced plans to help the Church of England’s 16,000 local churches and 4,500 schools reach carbon net zero by the end of the decade. These will be considered by General Synod on the afternoon of Friday 8 July 2022. The Press Release and Synod Motion are reproduced below, together with some initial observations.


PRESS RELEASE

Synod to consider plans for net zero carbon Church by 2030

23/06/2022

Plans to help the Church of England’s 16,000 local churches and 4,500 schools reach carbon net zero by the end of the decade will be considered by General Synod. The Church of England Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030 was drawn up following a widespread consultation with parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, and the wider Church following an historic vote at General Synod in February 2020.

Synod will debate the plans and consider them for approval at its meeting in York next month. Practical advice and success stories from churches and schools across England will be shared in a series of short films.

A series of videos highlight exceptional projects from across the country, ranging from heat pumps in rural Cumbria to solar panels in central London. They also include net zero carbon schools like St Andrew’s School, Chedworth, Gloucestershire, which has installed solar panels and an air-source heat pump, and Newcastle Cathedral which has installed a new, sustainable, heating system.

The challenge laid down by Synod to achieve carbon net zero by 2030 covers all parts of the Church of England and the routemap covers local churches, cathedrals, schools, clergy housing, diocesan and national offices. The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, the Church of England’s lead bishop for the environment, said:

“There is no question that achieving net zero carbon by 2030 is an almighty challenge.  But this detailed routemap, that has been developed in partnership across the whole Church, sets out a practical and pragmatic way to making this a reality.  I am aware of the scale of the challenges, but Synod’s historic decision two years ago to aim for 2030 certainly made us focus our attention on this crucial decade for the planet.  I want to approach this with a hope-filled realism that we can achieve this together.”

The full scope and definition of carbon net zero was agreed by Synod, a consultation took place earlier this year and expert advice sought throughout the process of writing the Routemap.

While it is not legislative and does not obligate any part of the Church, subject to its approval by Synod, the Routemap will form the basis of the road to net zero carbon by 2030.


SYNOD MOTION

ROUTEMAP TO NET ZERO CARBON BY 2030 (GS 2258)

The Bishop of Norwich to move:

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

(a) endorse the “Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030” (GS 2258).

 (b) request every Diocesan Synod to debate the Routemap as it applies to their structures, parishes and BMOs, and to agree a feasible programme of action towards achieving net zero carbon by 2030;

(c) request high energy users within the Church (every cathedral, TEI, school, office and the top 20% of energy-consuming churches) to similarly draw up a programme of action, with a clear time frame, based on the Routemap.

(d) call on the Environment staff team to report back to Synod on progress against the Routemap in 2025, 2028 and 2031, and for reports on the Church’s carbon emissions every year.


Comments

The Executive Summary outlines the current position:

  • All 42 dioceses have registered for Eco Dioceses.
  • 29 Diocesan Synods have passed a motion committing to net zero carbon.

The focus of the actions is on high-energy-consuming buildings, not the smaller less frequently used buildings that already have a very low carbon footprint. For example, a typical small church, not used every day, has an annual carbon footprint of significantly less than an average UK household. Routine maintenance and switching off unnecessary heat and light will reduce carbon emissions further and switching to a green electricity tariff will allow such building to be at or near net zero carbon for minimal additional cost.

With regard to Cathedrals and Churches, for 2022 to 2027: “over the duration of a Quinquennium and from 2022, all cathedrals and the top 20% of energy-consuming churches to develop net zero carbon action plans for completion by no later than 2027. These should include, as a minimum, low-carbon heating options to replace fossil-fuel heating at end-of-life, such as heat pumps or far infra-red heating panels. The Action Plan should also contain a Heating Resilience Plan which should consider how to manage heat should the existing system fail, to avoid needing a quick like-for-like fossil-fuel replacement.

Significantly, the Routemap “is not legislative and does not obligate any part of the Church, subject to its approval by Synod, [it] will form the basis of the road to net zero carbon by 2030“. Primarily, it is intended for an internal audience, particularly those able to effect change; it is not intended for an external audience, except for those organisations that are working closely with us to effect positive environmental change. Whilst initially this appears to preclude the possibility of the external verification of the carbon reductions achieved, this may be introduced at a later stage. For 2028, at 7.1.5. the document identifies:

“National: Research and propose to General Synod an appropriate Science-Based Target [ref. 16], with appropriate target year, and reporting to external standards, to be adopted from 2030 onwards”.


Ref 16:  Science-Based Targets are reductions in emissions necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. They are not standardised for charities but are the globally accepted standard for company carbon reduction targets. For further information see – Briefing: Science-based targets | The Carbon Trust.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "July Synod: plans for “net zero carbon” by 2030" in Law & Religion UK, 23 June 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/06/23/july-synod-plans-for-net-zero-carbon-by-2030/

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