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Church of England launches energy rating tool as Synod considers new ‘net zero’ carbon target

24th Jan 2020

The Church of England is launching an energy ratings system similar to those used for household appliances to help monitor the carbon footprint of its almost 40,000 buildings, as the General Synod considers a major new proposal to reach ‘net zero’ CO2 emissions. 

Members of Synod, which meets in London next month, will debate a motion calling on all parts of the Church of England - from parishes to national bodies - to aim for ambitious year-on-year reductions in emissions to reach “net zero” by 2045 at the latest. 

The motion on the “climate emergency and carbon reduction target”, sets out a commitment to regular updates on the Church’s progress.    

In a first step, parishes are being offered a new rating tool, which calculates their energy consumption, taking into account factors including the type of power they use, whether they are on ‘green’ tariffs, the size of the building and usage.      

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, the Church of England’s lead bishop for Environmental Affairs, said: “The Church of England has buildings in every architectural style and material from the past 1,500 years, posing some unique challenges when it comes to energy efficiency. 

“However, churches are not museums; they are living buildings which serve their communities every day of the week, and being greener isn’t about doing less, it’s about equipping parishes to get smarter about energy consumption. 

“Setting a ‘net zero’ target of 2045, five years ahead of the Government’s target, would nonetheless represent a significant statement of intent by General Synod, one which will require innovation, faith and dedication from our churches, schools, and communities. 

“Christians are called to safeguard God’s creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. Faced with the reality of catastrophic climate change, which will affect the world’s most vulnerable people the soonest, radical and immediate action is our only option.” 

Archdeacon Elizabeth Snowden, Chair of the Chelmsford Diocesan Environment Group also welcomed the news: “For too long  we have not shown sufficient interest in caring for the earth we live in. It is exciting to see the National Church and General Synod taking this lead.  This is very timely and encouraging. It  resonates with Bishop Stephen's letters and his New Year’s message and our commitment this year to provide opportunities for people from across the diocese to think reflect and explore what our response should be to the Climate Crisis."

A paper sent to Synod members also outlines potential impacts of climate change directly affecting the Church.

It warns parishes that, as impacts start to accelerate, more churches will need to be prepared to be play missional roles in their communities, including offering sanctuary in extreme weather events, as was seen at the church of St Cuthbert, Fishlake, following flooding of the River Don last year. 


More information

  • In February 2019, the Church of England’s General Synod passed a motion brought by London and Truro Dioceses to develop a simple tool which would calculate total CO2 emissions and enable monitoring of progress. 
  • Earlier this week, the National Investing Bodies of the Church of England announced they would join the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. 

See also