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World News

75,000 acres of church land to be transformed to help UK reach net zero

by Heather Preston

A new project is planning to regenerate 15 per cent of the UK's church land in a bid to cut carbon emissions.

According to Christian conservation charity A Rocha, approximately 500,000 acres of land across the UK is owned by churches in the form of churchyards and conference centre grounds, to urban community farms and agricultural estates.

The charity's new initiative aims to transform 75,000 acres of this land into wild flower meadows, native woodlands and food forests over the next five years.

Regenerating certain types of ecosystems can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it up safely in soil and vegetation.

A Rocha's head of conservation, Andy Lester tells Premier the scheme will also involve the restoration of peatlands.

"We want to create habitat that will help to soak up carbon emissions with native mix forests. But the other issue is protecting soils from draught and floods. We're going to be working in Northern Ireland and Scotland to manage and restore peat bogs which are brilliant at locking in and storing carbon.

"It's both creating new habitats that will take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and protecting soil structure to help lock in carbon in the soil."

Lester added that when done at scale, these nature based solutions can make a significant contribution to lowering the amount of carbon dioxide that is being stored, held and taken up across the country.

Following the first five years of the scheme, A Rocha plans to scale up their work to regenerate even more church owned land to contribute to Britain's goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

Climate activism has received criticism amongst some Christian communities of late, who argue that it distracts believers from their call to share the gospel.

During the COP26 climate summit one church hung a banner that read: "The world's most urgent need is churches preaching Christ crucified not climate change".

Lester argues that creation care goes hand in hand with mission.

"The bottom line is, you can't split the two. This is about the poorest of the poor getting poorer and more destitute because of the impacts of climate change. 

"This is all about creation care that is groaning because it needs us to be Christ's hands and feet.

"This is not about the worship of nature, this is about showing that we make a difference as a people to the communities in which we live."

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