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World News

CofE Synod backs action to tackle biodiversity crisis

by Donna Birrell

Members of the Church of England’s General Synod have backed a series of measures to promote biodiversity on Church land - from churchyards as havens of wildlife and plants, to the stewardship of agricultural and forestry land.

Introducing the debate at the Synod meeting in London, the Church of England’s lead Bishop for the Environment, Rt Rev Graham Usher, said there is a need for immediate action to promote biodiversity. He warned that the UK is now one of the most ‘nature-depleted’ countries in the world:

“We are all too aware that this single island planet home of ours faces the twin interrelated crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. We are one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world – 2 per cent of species are already extinct – 41 per cent of species have declined since 1970, 26 per cent of our mammals are at risk of extinction and 97 per cent of UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s.

“We need to act now to help the diversity of life on this single island planet home we share.”

Bishop Graham went on to tell the Synod that in many parishes the churchyard is the only remaining ‘species-rich’ grassland untouched by post Second World War cultivation and development. He added that in urban areas, churchyards are often the only green space and that when they are managed well, with a plan, good local consultation, sensitivity to mourners, and clear interpretation, nature can thrive in churchyards:

“Our churchyards should be places of the living not just the dead.”

Members of the Synod welcomed progress already made by the Church Commissioners, the National Church Institutions, dioceses, parishes, cathedrals and schools to manage their land for climate and nature. They approved further action to increase biodiversity including work towards drawing up environmental policy and land management plans for Dioceses and the recording of biodiversity in church green spaces.

The Church Commissioners have been asked to report back to General Synod within three years about their progress.

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