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Church of England brings forward carbon neutral target by 15 years

by Heather Preston

The Church of England has brought its target for net zero carbon emissions forward to 2030, following a proposal passed at its General Synod meeting on Wednesday.

The Church's original target of becoming carbon neutral by 2045 was substituted for a more ambitious timeline in an amendment put forward by Canon Professor Martin Gainsborough, who has already committed to the target in his local diocese of Bristol.

He argued that the original target was not acceptable and the Church had a responsibility to preserve the planet. 

"There is nothing more important than this," he added.

The move has been welcomed by Christian poverty charity Tearfund.

Global advocacy and influencing director, Ruth Valerio said: "Responding to the climate crisis with urgency is a global priority and must be done at speed. 

"It is only right that the church shows bold climate leadership now as we prepare to hold the UN climate talks in Glasgow this year.

"The church must continue to take courageous steps to cut its carbon emissions ensuring it reaches net zero as soon as possible, protecting the world's most vulnerable people and the wider natural world."

Following the debate, The Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam, the Church of England's lead bishop for the Environment said: "Synod has set an ambitious target for the whole Church of England to respond to the urgency of the Climate Crisis. 

"To reach Synod's target of 2030 we will each need to hear this as an urgent call to action, but I am encouraged by the statement of intent this makes across the Church, and wider society about our determination to tackle Climate Change, and safeguard God's creation.

"This is a social justice issue, which affects the world's poorest soonest and most severely, and if the Church is to hold others to account, we have to get our own house in order.

"There is no serious doubt that climate change is happening, and that people are causing it, so it is very encouraging that Synod is grappling with the most urgent issues of our time."

The final approved motion reads: "This Synod, recognising that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God's creation, and a fundamental injustice, and following the call of the Anglican Communion in ACC Resolutions A17.05 and A17.06;

(a) call upon all parts of the Church of England, including parishes, BMOs [Bishop Mission Orders], education institutions, dioceses, cathedrals, and the NCIs [National Church Institutions], to work to achieve year-on-year reductions in emissions and urgently examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030 in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target;

(b) request reports on progress from the Environment Working Group and the NCI's every three years beginning in 2022 and;

(c) call on each Diocesan Synod, and cathedral Chapter, to address progress toward net zero emissions every three years."

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