It may be greenwash, but it is not copper-bottomed!!
Over the last few years the Church of England has got very concerned about Climate Change and thus in the February 2020 General Synod the Bishop of Salisbury put forward a motion that the CofE should aim for Net Zero by 2045. The accompanying papers were well-argued and realistic, and showed the ways in which the Church of England could make much headway in approaching Net Zero in 25 years..
When it came to the debate, which was poorly attended, some from Bristol Diocese put forward an amendment to bring that forward for Net Zero 2030. That was passed despite the low numbers and now the CoE is committed to be Net Zero by 2030.
As you read that ask yourself if you are a Goodie or a Baddie. The Goodie wants Zero in 2025 or 2030 as a compromise, and divestment ASAP, and the baddies are the rest!! The baddies are all as bad as each other and those, like me, who are concerned about climate change and know things need to done but do not accept a 2030 date for Net Zero, are as bad as those who will burn the last lump of coal! To some all of us are “Climate Deniers”.
I’m one of the baddies, and proud of it, Because I wish to see life, animal, vegetable, fungal and bacterial, on this planet improving and not wrecked either by those who don’t care or those whose feelings have taken over from their reason..
Joking apart, I will start by saying that there is no question that Climate Change is a serious issue and have argued that since last century, having been convinced by no less a person than Sir John Houghton after personal chats. Climate Change needs to be dealt with now, or rather 30 years ago, and not 20 years hence. However it will not be solved by impractical solutions or intoning ecogodwords like “renewables”, “carbon-free”, zero emissions”. Grand solutions will not work, nor will green virtue signalling. The solution will come from carefully worked-out technical changes AND lots of little changes from the public at large like planting a tree (in the right place) or reducing consumption of anything from food, to energy or materials in apparently trivial ways, including turning the tap off when brushing your teeth. There are those who are insistent on reducing plastic, but drive everywhere and pour their coffee grounds down the sink. It takes energy (i.e fossil fuel) to clean the water of coffee grounds – something which could be avoided by putting them on a flower bed or veg plot. That would also improve the soil.
Within the church those pushing environmental issues tend to be greenies with limited technical skills rather than techies. This may be seen by diocesan environmental officers with no science background putting forward arguments which are often flawed or inaccurate. It is cringeworthy when the Environmental officer comes out with basic scientific error indicating they have not studied science beyond GCSE. e.g. claiming. Fracking fluid contains contaminants like citric acids & acetic acids”!! My answer is “Fish and Chips”!! With a reliance on the outpourings from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and more recently Extinction Rebellion, this results in a disconnect with the actual realities of energy, mineral extraction and food production, not to mention climate change and biodiversity. Thus those who favour nuclear energy, a continued use of petroleum until something better is found, GMOs, non-organic farming, glyphosate will find their views , and even considerable expertise, are not required and so are effectively non-platformed or even cancelled. They are often dismissed as climate deniers. The church has thrown away a lot of expertise, as with an expert on Carbon Capture.. As a result the environment groups simply do not have geologists, those from the oil industry, Energy etc. Hence any informed perspective is lost.
Only one narrative
It seems to me that when issues of the environment are discussed only ONE narrative is followed or allowed and the rest are sidelined. Undoubtedly there are those who simply do not care about the environment i.e God’s creation, but those who do care cover a much wider opinion that members of the Christian Climate coalition. I began to realise this over fracking, when the only permitted narrative allowed was to be strongly anti-fracking and to dismiss those who saw fracking as being a bridge and reducing emissions immediately as climate deniers and as bad as the “drill, baby, drill” redneck from Texas, who gives not a stuff about anything except his truck and MAGA hat. This was so with both secular and church groups. Perhaps we can call this the Grand Green Narrative GGN, which insists you do not diverge from its tenets!! Its corollary is that if you diverge from the GGN you are not green.
A recent Church Times article of 6th November 2020 was on the Net Zero 2030 proposal as being achievable, as it was coming up in general Synod.
However it is more assertion than demonstration, but here we may be dealing with belief rather than actual substance. Having persuaded Synod in February to switch from Net Zero in 2045 to 2030, proponents have to show that it is possible.
But what we have in the article is somewhat muddled and shows a lack of understanding of energy issues and also how such changes can be effected. I don’t know whether that is due to the reporter or those consulted.
I touch on a few points. We are told that;
Purely electric heating has, on average, a lower net-carbon footprint than gas or oil,
I blinked at that statement. It may be true if you use only electricity from renewables, but most electricity is not from renewables. 20% is from nuclear and about 50% is from gas with a small percentage from coal. It depends on the source of electricity, but then we can only have green electricity in our mains as the grid makes no distinction, and we don’t know where our power actually came from!.
Despite the government’s new green schemes for 2030 it will be very difficult to produce “green” electricity on the scale needed. At present electricity is about one quarter of energy used. ( there are times, e.g. on a cold windless night, when no renewable electricity is being generated. Think if a freezing January evening when every appliance is switched on. When this happens gas power stations are ramped up and coal switched on.) The rest is from fossil fuels for transport, heating and industry. The recent government suggestion of windfarms sounds good, but will only generate electricity when there is wind.
switching to 100-per-cent renewable energy on a “green tariff”, perhaps through the parish buying scheme;
This is a blind faith in renewables as if renewables are good clean energy and fossil fuels are bad and dirty energy. In fact, both are “bad” and and neither are clean. All energy systems have an environmental cost. For fossil fuels it is in the extracting and burning of them, and for renewables, both in the fossil fuels needed for construction and the demand for copper, cobalt, lithium and other rare metals, which need to be mined from mineral-poor rock needing vast amounts of ore to be mined for a little metal. If it is a porphyry deposit the ore is probably 0.25% copper, thus needing to mine 400 tons of ore for one ton of copper. There is a serious problem on the metals needed – and often these are obtained from dodgy overseas mines outside the major mining companies, with little concern for safety or pollution. This is why prospectors are looking at old copper mines in Camborne and Parys Mountain on Anglesey. Both have an environmental cost, which would be less so than a dodgy venture in the middle of Africa. Both could be the size of a copper mine I once worked in, where among other things I got CO poisoning. Not recommended!
Further, renewables need also to be built with vast quantities of Concrete and resin-based materials ( which produce a lot of emissions in construction) for wind, and areas of land for solar farms. The environmental cost of building windfarms on peat terrain is immense, especially as peatbog is excellent for carbon capture. Here is a windfarm built on peat in Ireland.
That should make you blink. With peat as an excellent carbon sink, they should never be used for wind farms or even the occasional turbine – or even tree planting. That nullifies any reduction in emissions on the combustion of fossil fuels.
But this does not fit in with the usual designation of clean and dirty energy. In fact all energy is dirty. Please repeat 1000 times.
On major issue often overlooked or glossed over is that the electrical grid needs to be vastly expanded. Heating and transport by electricity means that the grid must double, or even triple in size. This is not crucial for the church, but is for the whole of society.
On could add the area needed for solar farms
It is very easy to raise objections to fossil fuels, but we also need to quiz the claims of renewable suppliers. Frequently they have claimed to provide 100% renewable electricity and gas. At times they have been censured for making false claims, as was Ecotricity by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2017 for falsely claiming their gas was 100% renewable. It was not and they were not producing much gas, if any!! The ASA insisted future averts were corrected. Further it is impossible for wind and solar to provide 100% renewable electricity in absence of storage e.g. on a cold windless night. Thus wind accounts for between 0% and 40% of electricity generated at any particular time, which is not reliable. On that cold, windless night gas is ramped up and maybe coal is switched on. Without plenty of gas power stations power-cuts would be the norm. A little realism and attention to detail is needed. I just checked twitter and found for this week (written on 26/11/20).
National Grid ESO@ng_esoWe’re forecasting tight margins on the #electricity system over the next few days owing to a number of factors, primarily varying renewable generation levels and colder temperatures over periods of the day with higher demand [1/3]
I hope there are no power cuts and gas and coal plug the gap!! Yup, coal is burniong merrily as I type.
Here is a recent tweet focusing on electric vehicles. The figures seem to be in the right order.
EVS Tweet “There are 33 million cars in UK each averaging ~10miles/day or 3KWh/day. So to charge them all will need 100GWh/day of electricity demand. That equates to two extra Hinkley C’s ! Forget Wind power – unless you want to add sails to all the cars!”
That tweet only focuses on the actual electricity needed and I deal with the increased use of metals below. A Times report (27/11/20) says EVs use up 50% more emissions than petrol/diesel cars and take 50,000 miles to break even on emissions.
In contrast to the simple appeal of renewables all energy predictions, including those from Greenpeace, conclude fossil fuels will be used until at least 2050.
The devotion to the green means you cannot use the greener, or the least ungreen – which is nuclear and gas.
The perfect is the enemy of the best available.
The suggestion of lots of little improvements is excellent and is what people should have been doing for 40 years, if they haven’t been doing so. Thus moving over to LED lights should simply have been done, even only as replacements over the last 40 years, moving from Tungsten filament incandescent, to low energy to LED. In our household we followed that trajectory from 1986 starting with the massive low energy bulbs and then moved with the times. A good personal task is to consider how you can make little energy or material savings from all aspects of your living. e.g using a bike where possible.
The same is the case with insulation and all forms of energy efficiency. Some of us remember cold houses in the 1950s with expensive and inefficient heating with temperatures of 55 deg F – sorry 13deg C !
The change in mode of travel to achieve net Zero is challenging.. To change to electric may reduce emissions to zero at point of use, but one must consider the metals needed for batteries and motors, as I mentioned above. I admit to being wary of the Governments policy to ban diesel and petrol cars from 2030, on grounds of practicality and the need to vastly increase electricity generation, but also the availability of the metals needed.
Acute Metal Shortage
There is also the problem of essential metals as greatly increased quantities of copper, Nickel and Cobalt will be needed, and also Lithium. For the hoped-for 32% of EVs by 2030 an additional 27,000 tons of Copper will be needed annually just in the UK. (To consider what that means, that is nearly one and a half million tons of Copper Ore at 2% copper. When working for an exploration company in South Africa and re-evaluating an old mine my initial findings showed that it could be 2 million tons at 2% which would be a small viable mine. Drilling soon showed there was half a million so it was dropped. My point is simple, Britain would need a new Copper mine of that size ( 2 million tons at 2% every year. That is simply unlikely.) The extra 27,000 tons of copper needed is an 18% increase from the last decade years when 150,000 tons were consumed annually of which 130,000 was reclaimed from scrap. This additional Copper will have to be from refining. To give an indication, if Parys mountain in Anglesey was viable as a mine it could produce 80, 000 tons of refined Copper i.e 3 years of increased demand.
Parys mountain Copper Mine
The result will be to open up mines of much poorer ore with the attendant increase of mine waste and pollution.
This is expressed far better by scientists from the British Museum of Natural History
or on a world perspective
I’d suggest both the Church of England and the Government get up to speed on their understanding of mineral resources and stop hoping for renewables!
Now to change tack on travel.
On travel it is remarkable how few clergy actually use a bike. Except in far-flung rural parishes it is often the quickest and easiest mode of transport. It has the great advantage of being able to stop and talk to people in busy streets. In fact, a bike is an excellent pastoral aid! Travelling five miles to visit in a hospital I found cycling was quicker than a car – and less frustrating. Yet the article makes no mention of bikes and says It also includes all work-related travel by clergy, staff, and volunteers. It is simply not happening.
It seems no one expects to get to Net Zero by 2030 as the article says. A further phase of work from 2030 includes all emissions from large building projects; emissions from the farming and management of church lands, and all emissions from products bought, such as paper and printing; downstream emissions from waste disposal; emissions from building contractors; and carbon generated from use of emails and the internet in work-related contexts. All these are said to be “within our influence to a significant degree”.
Ah, I see! Net Zero by 2030 is not Net Zero by 2030. One would have thought these would have been included in the 2030 targets. I suggest there is a clear realisation that Net Zero 2030 is impossible to achieve!
One would have thought the items on this long list should be tackled well before 2030.
However much was omitted;
Various small ways of reducing energy usage in church, school and home
the myriad little things
And, of course, the education of congregations
The article then gives the example of a church in Birmingham. The church at Baddesley Clinton, which has no gas or running water, is now carbon-neutral after the installation of under-pew heating, which heats a bubble of air round the pew rather than the whole church space.
I don’t whether to laugh or cry at this scientific nonsense. Is there a plastic bubble to enclose those being warmed? From the most basic physics all should know that hot air rises and thus most of the heat will fleetingly warm those in the pew before roasting the top of the church. It does not say what the source of electricity for the underfloor heating is, but it would use more electricity than other methods of heating.
The CT article then says “It has halved its energy consumption by switching to a renewable-energy supplier. That is impossible and risible, you will use the same amount of electricity for the same usage whoever your supplier!
Shoddy arguments like these help no one and create misunderstanding of energy issues. However this type of confusion takes root and is very difficult to counter. One is usually met with a variety of ecogodwords.
Several dioceses are register as eco-dioceses and with eco-churches.
In 2016 eco-church was relaunched through Arocha, with bronze, silver and gold awards. Much was simply sensible green advice on what churches could do, but it tended to be doctrinaire coming from a particular standpoint. Back to the Great Green Narrative
It simply assumed that churches ought to go renewable and recommended Ecotricity. This follows the common line on renewable (good) and non-renewable/fossil (bad) and not considering the actual problems of obtaining energy, or the total emissions produced.
The additional materials point one to resources and groups to follow. It refers to the flagship green group Friends of the Earth. Yet it ignores they way they were pulled up by the Advertising Standards Authority in early 2017 for their grossly inaccurate leaflet on fracking. In it they claimed that additives to fracking fluid were carcenogenic. When challenged on BBC the best they could come up with was – SAND! One needs to note their campaigns, especially in the EU to ban GMOs, and their anti-nuclear stance. Bees have been in their sights for year, but now claim that the greatest cause of decline is intensive farming, rather than what they previously claimed – neonicotinoids.
The record of Friends of the Earth is not good. Nor is that of Greenpeace
Another group highlighted was Frack Free Fylde, which for several years disrupted peoples’ lives, blocked roads, held up funerals and pushed misinformation. And also recommended is Keep it in the ground with the aim of stopping extraction of fossil fuels.
If Ecochurch is to be ecochurch, it should not simply put forward one extreme environmental line, however popular that may be. It excludes a large number of environmentally concerned people. It is classic GGN Grand Green Narrative.
There is so much else to recommend what parishes can do to be truly eco-church. It is a pity eco-church focussed on only those groups taking a particular view on energy and not referring to government bodies or others. Perhaps it is as well it was produced before Extinction Rebellion and Christian ‘sClimate Action.
The problem of Net Zero 2030
I think it is a great pity that Bishop Holtham simply does not say Net Zero 2030 is totally unrealistic.
To conclude it was based on an amendment which was both ideological and idealistic and rather lop-sided in their beliefs and arguments.
Their’s is a tunnel vision on divestment and Net Zero ASAP
It is Binary thinking, whereby fossil fuels are totally bad and renewables the opposite
It is unrealistic on transition
Further they have excluded the middle ground, which needs to be recognised and also their support gained. I wonder how many will opt out because of that.
They eschew the more technical and slower approaches, which take the state of technology into account. These will be far more effective in both the medium and long term, but won’t have the activist glamour.
Nothing will be gained by rushing things and we should follow the example of beavers and slowly beaver away.
The Church Times Article in full
Canon Gainsborough was commenting on the publication today of Synod papers on the scope and definition of what net zero would look like, to be debated by the Synod this month. “What an achievement and what a legacy that would be!” he said. “I have been hugely impressed by the way in which the Environment Working Group has been working since the momentous vote in February.”
“The definition of what is included for our net-zero carbon target seems the right one. It is also widely supported, as the consultation process relating to it shows.”
Chaplain to the Bishop of Bristol, Canon Gainsborough was formerly the professor in development politics at the University of Bristol and the Social Justice and Environmental Adviser in Bristol diocese.
Data has been submitted from 4500 churches — about one third of parishes — to the Energy Footprint Tool (EFT). Twenty-two diocesan synods have carried or are planning to debate a net-zero motion, and 23 have either registered or planned to register as an eco diocese. Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Liverpool, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Salisbury, and Winchester have achieved Bronze status.
The Church’s current carbon footprint is described as “very significant”. A baseline study in 2012 found that it created between 600,000 and one million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent: the standard measure of greenhouse-gas emissions. That figure was purely for energy, and did not include transport, water, waste, and purchases.
Heating accounted for more than 80 per cent of church energy use. Purely electric heating has, on average, a lower net-carbon footprint than gas or oil, and the Synod papers make practical recommendations for reducing both energy use and carbon transmission. The lowest tier of these are “actions that nearly all churches can benefit from, even low-occupancy churches only used on a Sunday. They are relatively easy, with relatively fast pay back. They are a good place for churches to start.”
These include attention to maintenance and draught-proofing; switching to 100-per-cent renewable energy on a “green tariff”, perhaps through the parish buying scheme; replacing light bulbs and floodlights with LEDs; writing an energy-efficient procurement policy; making a commitment to renewable electric and A+++ rated appliances; and offsetting small remaining amounts of energy with a contribution to community projects in the developing world.
At the other end of the scale are the main “Only if” projects, such as the installation of ground-source heat-pumps, likely to be done only as part of a reordering.
Included in the 2030 target are churches, cathedrals, church halls, and ancillary buildings; Royal Peculiars; theological education institutions; clergy housing; voluntary aided schools and diocesan academy trusts; and church bodies’ offices and diocesan properties. It also includes all work-related travel by clergy, staff, and volunteers.
A further phase of work from 2030 includes all emissions from large building projects; emissions from the farming and management of church lands, and all emissions from products bought, such as paper and printing; downstream emissions from waste disposal; emissions from building contractors; and carbon generated from use of emails and the internet in work-related contexts. All these are said to be “within our influence to a significant degree”.
Those acknowledged to be out of the scope of the target, “but still within our mission to influence”, include greenhouse-gas emissions for which worshippers and visitors are responsible, and schools that are fully controlled by local authorities.
The PCC and congregations of two rural churches, St Michael’s, Baddesley Clinton, a small building south of Birmingham, and St Michael and All Angels, Withington, in the Cotswolds, are highlighted for their recent work. The church at Baddesley Clinton, which has no gas or running water, is now carbon-neutral after the installation of under-pew heating, which heats a bubble of air round the pew rather than the whole church space.
It has halved its energy consumption by switching to a renewable-energy supplier; has replaced all light bulbs with LEDs; and offsets to climate stewards the travel associated with people coming to church. The Rector, the Revd Patrick Gerard, who is also the diocese of Birmingham’s environmental adviser, describes his PCC as “not an eco-warrior PCC at all, but very practical”. The LEDs had been “an easy win”, and the congregation were now warm. The old wall heaters had been retained, “but we now have the confidence not to use them.”
The church in Withington, in Gloucester diocese, was believed to be the first to become carbon-neutral, in 2010, when a biomass boiler, solar panels, and LEDs were installed (News, 1 October 2010). Although the biomass boiler worked, it was simply a boiler replacement, and did not change the the number of radiators. Loading it with wooden pellets became an onerous task for a small core of people.
Pew heaters have been installed, and have made a fundamental difference to comfort levels, besides maintaining zero-carbon credentials, it has been reported. Residual electricity is bought from renewable sources.
The project leader, Matt Fulford, said on Tuesday, “Different people will view the project in different ways. You’ve got those viewing it as a very positive environmental project; others take a treasurer’s view that sees it as as a very positive financial project; and a third view it as a success because of the comfort element. It is now a very usable building which is enjoyable to be in; so it’s a missional view in being able to serve its core purpose better. It’s lovely when all three of these come together.”
1. The energy use of our buildings;
Gas, oil, or other fuel use
Electricity purchased (no matter the source it is purchased from – renewable
electricity purchased is accounted for later)
For the following buildings;
• Churches, including church halls and ancillary buildings.
• Cathedrals (and …..l the precinct)
• Schools where the DBE has a significant degree of influence (generally
Voluntary Aided & Diocesan Academy Trusts) including halls/other buildings
• Clergy housing,
• Church bodies’ offices
• Other diocesan property, including common parts of tenanted properties
• Theological Education Institutions
Including the “well to tank” and “transmission and distribution” factors involved
in getting energy to the building.
Note: Electricity used to charge EV vehicles will be included within the above.
2. All work-related travel
3. From this, and on the understanding that real reductions in energy use have been
made, the following can be removed:
Excess energy generated on site (e.g. from solar PV) and exported to the grid
100% renewable electricity purchased either from the Green Energy Basket
or agreed companies, reviewed annually, having regard to the criteria used
by the Big Church Switch
Green gas [certification approach still t.b.d.]
Other reliable offsetting schemes,
4. All the emissions from major building projects (
5. Emissions generated from the farming / management of Church land (including
church yards, unless fully controlled by local councils, and glebe land) less emissions
sequestered through the farming / management of Church land (such as tree
planting, soil improvement, and other nature-based solutions) *
6. All the emissions (including upstream process & transport) from the procurement of
any items we buy (e.g. pews for churches, paper & printing for offices, new cars for
bishops, catering for events)
7. Upstream and downstream emissions from water and drainage
8. Downstream emissions from waste disposal
9. Emissions from building contractors, plumbers, electricians and the like
10. Carbon generated from use of emails and the internet in work-based contexts
11. Diocesan investments, if they are a material amount
12. Air-conditioning gasses
In standard Greenhouse Gas definitions, these are those parts of our “Scope 3“ emissions
which are within our influence to a significant degree.
* To be specifically reviewed in 2022, with the potential to bring them into scope of the
2030 target, only after consultation, and if feasible methodologies have been developed
NOT INCLUDED IN TARGET
13. Travel of staff and clergy to and from their usual place of work or ministry
14. The travel of the public to and from church, school, and church events.
15. Clergy family’s & residents’ GHG emissions (consumer goods, travel, holidays). The
energy used to heat and light the housing, if over the average reasonable use above.
16. Personal GHG emissions from the lives of worshippers attending church, other
church users (such as people attending a choir or playgroup), and overseas visitors
17. Schools over which we have very limited influence (generally Voluntary Controlled
Schools which are fully controlled by Local Authorities)
In standard Greenhouse Gas definitions, see below, these are either out of our scope or
are scope 3 but largely outside our influence.