The Church of England has used a meeting of global faith leaders and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to launch an environmental strategy for the next seven years.
The gathering took place on 2 November in Windsor and discussed commitments on climate change in the run-up to the world’s political leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December.
Nine other faith groups have also made specific plans for their contribution to the struggle against human-assisted global warming.
The strategy document, Church and Earth, outlines policies on climate change mitigation and adaptation. These will be overseen by the Church of England’s 'Shrinking the Footprint' campaign, set up in 2006, and implemented by the Church’s 43 dioceses and 16,200 churches.
It will also involve the 4,700 taxpayer-funded schools it controls across the UK in an activity which brings the whole community together - in contrast to controversies over the schools' admissions and employment policies.
Schools will be encouraged to achieve ‘eco-school’ status and promote education for sustainable development.
The plan does not address the church's substantial shareholdings in oil and mining companies, criticised for their damage to the environment.
The overall effort is aiming to cut the combined annual carbon footprint of around 330,000 tonnes of CO2.
Church and Earth includes emissions reduction targets for the Church as a whole, in line with the national target of 80 per cent by 2050, with an interim aim of reducing the Church’s carbon footprint by 42 per cent by 2020.
The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, who leads for the Church of England on climate change and the environment, said: “The challenge facing the human race in the 21st century is in our relation with the earth and in particular how we are going to help one another to adapt to the reality of rapid climate change."
He added: "The Christian community is being recalled by this crisis to a more genuinely Biblical view of creation and our place within it."
“It is clear that the effects of climate change will be felt first by some of the most vulnerable communities in the world and those least able to bear the costs of adaptation," said the bishop.
"Neighbour-love in the 21st century embraces Pacific islanders and those who make a living in the low lying delta regions of the world as well as our children and the inhabitants of our own islands."
The plan's targets are:
- Carbon reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050, with an interim target of 42 per cent by 2020.
- Annual carbon and energy reports for all parishes and dioceses by 2016.
- All church buildings to have carbon footprints calculated and recommendations made by 2012.
- Advice for all parishes on choosing green energy tariffs by 2010.
- Tree-planting to be encouraged on church land.
- ‘Eco-twinning’ between UK and developing world parishes, faced with early effects of climate change.
- New Climate Justice Fund offering aid to churches in the developing world.
- All dioceses to target Fair Trade status before 2016.
Church and Earth was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Church Commissioners and was developed by the Shrinking the Footprint Task Group, chaired by the Bishop of London.
It is one of nine long-term plans that the world’s major faiths have drawn up and which are being discussed at the Windsor Conference, organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) as part of their programme for Seven-Year Plans for Generational Change.
Oliver Smith, deputy director of programmes at WWF-UK and a trustee of ARC commented: "At a time when the negotiations in Copenhagen are at the front of our minds, it's heartening to see that a major institution such as the Church of England is taking a lead in a way that our government and the other nations could learn from. The plans that have been announced are truly challenging, and are part of a set of commitments of many traditions."
"The faiths have taken a moral stance, committing themselves to action whatever the outcome in Copenhagen. WWF-UK is proud to have been a sponsor and contributor to this plan and we look forward to working with the Church of England over the coming years as the plans are implemented."
The Church’s Shrinking the Footprint campaign has already seen parishes across the country working hard at reducing their carbon emissions. A number of churches, from St James’ Piccadilly in London’s West End through to St Denys’s in Sleaford, Lincoln, have installed solar panels. Wakefield Diocese has introduced a carbon offsetting scheme which involves tree-planting in Tanzania.
Church and Earth is being promoted as a statement of the Church of England’s beliefs, activities and ambitions relating to climate change and environmental action over the next seven years.
The Church of England is also involved alongside others in the newly established Climate Justice Fund, in partnership with Tearfund.
WWF works to create solutions to our most serious environmental challenges, for a world where people and nature can live in harmony within their fair share of the planet's natural resources. WWF-UK is the UK arm of the WWF Network, the world’s leading environmental organisation founded in 1961 and now active in over 100 countries.
The report and summary can be downloaded in *.PDF format here: http://www.shrinkingthefootprint.org/newsitem.php?id=65