In February 2020 just before the pandemic hit General Synod voted to work for Net Zero in 2030, altering the original motion for 2045 by an amendment. There was controversy as it was rushed through. On such a serious matter a major change should not have been made without due consideration and not rushed through.
The original target of 2045 was going to be difficult but 2030 is frankly impossible, without bankrupting many parish churches. Quite simply the technology is not in place how ever many times you intone “renewables” or “clean energy”..
In January 2021 a large group of Christian environmental groups came together to produce a route map for a church “to respond to the climate emergency”. It is already gaining enthusiastic responses. As we will see it assumes that swapping to renewables and heat pumps will solve it. It also does not consider the doubts and questions some have, especially those with technical ability in these areas.
It appears that green Christians in the Church of England think it is a wonderful idea and we should all be working hard to make it happen.
Here is the route map in the Climate Emergency Toolkit.
In view of the general concern over the climate, this seems an excellent idea, especially to enable local churches to understand Climate Change and be guided how to respond
This looks very promising as it supported by almost all Christian environmental and overseas development groups. It sets out a plan or route map for churches to make their response to the climate emergency. Further, there is no doubt that Climate Change is very serious and must be tackled by all, whether by the government or community groups.
As I read the route map, or Climate Emergency Toolkit I became more and more concerned. It was clear the authors had little or no grasp of energy issues and what is involved in going Net Zero. They seem to have a blind and tantric faith in renewables and pit “clean” energy against “dirty” energy from fossil fuels. It seems the most important thing for churches to do is to divest. That is partly as it seems to be an echo chamber for Operation Noah, whose accuracy is not always spot-on. And then we are advised to support Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action. I cannot help thinking that they uncritically accept anything these or Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace say.
There is no discussion of various understandings of the challenges of climate change as it opts for an extreme ER-type stance without presenting any case for it. The position of Nuclear Energy is simply ignored without even a mention. Fossil fuels are terrible but there is no realisation that on almost every scenario fossil fuels will continue to be used until mid-century.
Despite these strictures, the route map gives the impression of being considered and cautious, seeking to understand the problem of climate change. As they say it is better to not to jump in it but to ;
and then lastly work towards making an IMPACT, however local or limited
and so to the DECLARING. You are referred to a few sites to help, inform and guide you to set a target or a focus.
It is very much a done deal as a certain stance of energy in relation to the climate is assumed and thus one is almost coralled into agreement. It is a Route Map with no alternatives. It is taken for granted that the only energy which should be used is wind or solar, with no reasons given why oil is bad. nuclear is ignored. No discussion of energy is encouraged and then one is given two suggestions to carry out. It seems you are expected to agree with the view presented, when I, as a long-standing Christian environmentalist, most definitely do not. There is no question whether Climate Change is a serious issue which needs addressing, but there is no single route Map to do this. The route map here is centred on Renewables and Divestment, as if all will be fine and dandy after that. (There is no consideration of the downside of renewables – their intermittency and the vast amount of metals required from Copper to rare earths, almost doubling the present consumption. As a former mining geologist I expect major shortages within a few years. What we will see is copper being stripped from almost anywhere, as has happened to South African railways.)
This is apparent in the page entitled DECLARE, where two targets or foci are given.
ENERGY SWITCHING and DIVESTMENT
There is no discussion on the reasons for the necessity of either. These seem to be the only options and no mention is made of other Christian, or environmental, viewpoints. Energy switching is simply to change one’s electricity or gas supplier to a provider of renewable energy rather than those which use fossil fuels to generate electricity.
There is no mention of nuclear energy, biogas or the fact that fossil fuels will be used for several decades to come, as even Greenpeace admit. One is presented with a simple binary option of renewable i.e clean, energy or fossil i.e. dirty energy. There is no mention of nuclear or the horrendous environmental price of renewable wood for power stations.
The emphasis is purely on renewables as THE answer for all energy problems. There is no mention that they only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. I write this in the first week of February, when energy suppliers are struggling with a chance of black-outs. On a cold winters night you get your electricity because gas and coal are ramped up, producing up to 70% of the nation’s electricity, with nuclear (ugh) producing another 20%. This is a very incomplete argument and ignores the energy needed for heating — 70% of houses rely on gas, which is increasingly imported from abroad, with a loss of gas en route, or that used in transport or industry. There is an absurdity that much gas used in Britain is FRACKED gas imported from the USA, when fracking is outlawed in the UK at present. It is often not known that electricity only accounts for a third or so of energy usage.
By considering renewables to be “clean energy” unlike “dirty fossil fuels”, the serious environmental impact of renewables is ignored, as different sources of energies are simplitically classified as “goodies” and “baddies”. All are “baddies” on the effect on the environment. No mention is made of the materials used in construction and that metals and rare earths needed are in short supply. When one adds on Electric Vehicles this becomes almost impossible.
This article by leading geologists well-versed in minerals resources tells of the problems of obtaining sufficient metals to “go electric”.
Having worked in a copper mine and as an exploration geologist focussing on copper, just the figures to move to 100% EVs by 2050 leaves me aghast. Over the next 30 years the UK needs a further 2.4 million tons of Copper, i.e 80,000 tones per year. This increase the annual consumption of copper by 66% and most would have to come from new mines. This is just for the UK, but imagine what it would be for the whole world. The authors highlight the scale of the difficulty. Recycling is not an option due to the amounts required.
The alternative is deep-sea mining which to some is disastrous.
THIS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN THE ROAD MAP, and not just an appeal to go renewable and divest from fossil fuels. Like many green groups they do not face the reality of the problem.
The second focus is on divestment. Here one is referred only to the Bright Now Campaign, which goes far beyond what the Church of England is suggesting. Again there is no reference to other voices, but only to Operation Noah. Leaving aside the fact that objections can be made to their claims, including on technical details (both on bias and matters of fact), it does seem very one-sided.
What we see is a Route Map totally tied to a particular perspective. As well as being very one-sided it omits several other foci, which are both good and have a wider appeal
Transport. Consider leaving the car, and go by bike or foot. This is omitted in most ideas of Net Zero 2030, but would make an immediate difference on CO2, but also has health benefits. E.g. Today I needed to go to the supermarket, on a 1.5 mile return journey. My panniers and rucsac were full! Mine is usually the only bike at the supermarket. The value of walking and cycling is borne out by recent article on bikes by Prof Brand of Oxford https://theconversation.com/cycling-is-ten-times-more-important-than-electric-cars-for-reaching-net-zero-cities-157163 He makes it clear how effective bikes are at reducing carbon. In fact, for short journeys of less than three miles a bike is often quicker. It is also less stressful.
Carbon capture by planting. – yes tree planting! This can be in church and school grounds, also in gardens and possibly the local community. Clearly oaks are out for most places , but there is a plethora of small trees e.g. sorbus, prunus or malus which are great for wildlife, or even native or non-native shrubs. All my vicarage gardens since 1980 have several trees and many shrubs gobbling up a bit of CO2. Two rowans I planted in 2001 are now about 20ft high, but those in my present garden, planted since 2014, are still spindly.
Many aspects of personal lifestyles eg insulation, use of water, choice of food (not runner beans from Kenya!), what’s put in one’s garden e.g. Coffee grounds, tea leaves, when changed reduce one’s carbon footprint. Just consider how coffee grounds are cleaned up in the local waterworks, consuming energy in the process. But put on the garden they improve the soil. This needs to be emphasised in the teaching life of the church.
Yet there is no mention of these things in Pilgrimage to Net Zero 2030. This could be used to gently encourage both church employees and church members. But you need a vicar on a bike!!
The emphases of “divest” and “clean” energy recommended in the route map do not depart from the Great Green Narrative of “keep it the ground”, “renewables” “clean energy as opposed to dirty energy”(actually there is no clean energy) “divest” and support Extinction Rebellion. It totally ignores those environmentalists who take a different line after careful consideration and who may well support nuclear energy or a temporary support of fossil fuels. It is as though they are bad as the “Climate Denier”. In no other discussion in the churches would this happen. After all, the Church of England would not appoint a commission to discuss the place of the eucharist and only allow members of the Church Society to sit on it!! It is as though Sir David Mackay and others never did any high-powered work on energy. This is a serious omission and reflects badly on all the sponsoring groups.
The route map is so focussed on fossil fuels that almost ignore all the other vital issues;
Food; What and whence
Peat and plants and what one does with one’s garden. (This also touches on biodiversity)
The recent publications on the way that careful planting can improve climate issues is not mentioned, whether in gardens, road verges, parks, farms and countryside.
This section considers what can be done to make an Impact. Consider these two pages;
Rather than consider all possibilities this gives a carefully chosen selection of resources. It seems to assume all will agree with Operation Noah on divestment. Divestment seems to be the only/major emphasis of this road map.
This is little more than an appeal for activism, with several examples from the box headed Tools
Groups seem to be chosen to force churches into one view. However Repair Cafes is a Dutch group and list no cafes in Britain! Many places are not Transition Towns.
Of the others Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are very well-known especially for their stunts and bias, and even misinformation, on green issues. Several times they have been forced to correct these, including by the Advertising Standards Agency as in January 2018. They always seem to be in the front of the queue for considered opinion, which is usually more opinion than considered. For decades they have opposed one of the cleanest energies – nuclear, not to mention GMOs and other things.
More recently both have emphasised a rejection of fossil fuels, but also reject GMOs and Nuclear Energy, and have either slowed down or thwarted the implementation of these. The former will reduce agricultural emission and the latter low carbon energy with less risk than other forms of energy. Though they are usually foremost of green groups, many environmentalists reject their wide-ranging opposition over many issues.
Ironically most of us are queueing up for the GMO- COVID-19 vaccines whether we support GMOs or not! In July 2020, the European Parliament actually had to suspend the EU’s anti-GMO rules in order to allow the unimpeded development of COVID vaccines. There is great irony here. The Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine overtly uses genetic modification, but no one has complained. That is a reminder of the wayward ideas of these two groups and others like Christian Aid and Green Christian who are hostile to GMO. It’s odd no one has opposed the vaccines on the grounds of them being Genetically Modified, (or PPE as it is made from oil.).
One may ask why these were picked out as groups to support.
Extinction Rebellion in its local groups is also singled out. This was formed in late 2018 and soon caused major disruptions with their protests, almost courting arrest.
They take the most extreme view of the dangers of climate change claiming billions will die. This has terrified some youngsters, who think they will die early, and is dismissed by climate change specialists as false and simply scaremongering. That is hardly truthful.
However it is supported by Rowan Williams and several bishops, which is surely a serious lapse of judgement.
Christian Climate Action is true to its name and sees itself as the “Christian” wing of Extinction Rebellion. They seem to revel in being arrested. They were the group who climbed on commuter trains at Canning Town mid 2019 preventing working class employees getting to work. It turned very ugly and one protestor was pulled off the roof of a carriage and roughed up by by commuters. It was lucky no one was badly beaten up. It was a protest too far.
Protest in London 1/5/21
This would convince me to avoid anything connected with this
What we are suggested/guided/told to do in this section on IMPACT is Activism as protest, whether as apparently virtuous actions, or martyrdom through arrests, rather than activism as changed lifestyle seeking to drastically reduce our impact on the environment, which inevitably impinges on our carbon footprint, and slowly persuading others.
I think the authors of this Road Map need to say whether they expect whole congregations to join in these protests, disrupt the lives of other people and face arrest and prosecution. Being sarcastic, do they envisage the Mothers Union processing with their banners at an Extinction Rebellion protest? 🙂
This road map seems to be a ploy to force churches to adopt an extreme stance. It may be significant that the actual authors are not named. I suggest that this a recipe for conflict within churches who start using this Toolkit.
As described before there seems to be no openness to other green viewpoints, which do not demand divestment nor so-called green energy nor projects which do not break the law. Local to me are the Wyre River Trust and Lancashire Wildlife Trust. The former do careful tree planting, creation of new Carbon-absorbing wetlands and river repair and the other have various projects including restoring Winmarleigh Moss, a damaged low-level peat bog. This has great implications in dealing with climate change, though peatbogs have little sex-appeal for most people. (Though this project is controversial with the farmers neighbouring the moss.)
This is a very misguided and biased approach and I can imagine many churchmembers refusing to take part, with resultant division in the local church.
I question its discernment, accuracy and wisdom and whether all what they suggest is actually moral. Though since the 1990s I’ve been convinced of the seriousness of Climate Change, (having been an environmentalist for many decades) I’d refuse to take part and would oppose it by word and action – and withdraw any financial contribution to a church taking part.
Effectively each of these groups are undoing whatever good work they have done. The Route Map is very limited in its grasp of the technical issues of providing and using energy, which does not come from fossil fuels. The authors fail to discuss the problems of their chosen route map and should have given a presentation of the difficulties of getting away from fossil fuels, rather than simplistically appealing to renewables as the answer. They have done the churches a great disservice by this neglect. luke 14vs 28
I ought to note that among the patrons of these groups at least one is an antivaxxer in relation to Covid-19, and dismisses its seriousness.
It is a concern that the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment raises no critical questions about Net Zero 2030.
What are the main priorities of the Church of England’s Environment Programme?
We have an ambitious target of reaching net zero by 2030. That means that every church community needs to be thinking what it can do to contribute, whether by changing energy supplier to renewables, or using offset schemes, or generating solar, ground/air source, or wind energy on site, or considering these issues when the time comes to replace, for example, a boiler. I’m keen that we play out part in enhancing biodiversity on our land, especially churchyards which can be great places for the living diversity of life, as well as being places for the dead. Let them be Resurrection places of new life!
I am afraid I am unconvinced by the bishops’ arguments. I am not sure of his use of Resurrection, but that would take more space to discuss! There is no mention of an individual’s reduction of the earth’s resources, which can be effected by use of – bike/foot for travel, insulation, economy of food, water and other materials (and not only plastic).
What about me in 2021
I’ve got to find forever homes for 25 mountain ash trees grown from seed
I shall continue to pester local councils not to destroy flowers on road verges
I shall continue helping to spread sphagnum moss on upland peat bogs – already done 1 sq km
Grow more mountain ash from seed
Encourage others to be more green – even a teeny-weeny bit 🙂
Do some green volunteering
write more green blogs (which to some are not green).
Finally can you imagine Mothers Unions arranging coach trips to support Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action in their protests?
But I will conclude on a very serious note. I have pointed out the biased and lopsided approach of this route map, which does not get beyond a simplistic call for renewables and then supports groups like Extinction Rebellion.
I would have thought these eleven groups would not have supported such a limited perspective.