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Environmental advisers: Church of England must step up action on climate crisis

by Press Association

In guidance sent to bishops, dioceses and church leadership teams, the Church's environmental working group outlines what is needed to tackle the problem, from heating buildings to protecting wildlife in churchyards.

And in the future, local churches would need to be ready provide sanctuary in extreme weather events and support climate refugees from within and outside of the UK as the impacts of global warming accelerate.

The environmental working group is planning to bring a motion to the General Synod in 2020 proposing revised carbon targets for the Church that would see it aim for net zero emissions by 2050 - and to move faster where this is possible.

In its guidance the working group, which is chaired by the Bishop of Salisbury, said a programme of action was needed to change heating from oil and gas and focus more on the comfort of church users rather than always aiming to heat the whole space.

The programme would also focus on installing energy efficient lighting, switching to renewable energy, cutting heat loss, and for church properties, where appropriate, to generate their own electricity from renewables.

A key first step will be to measure the carbon footprint across all parts of the Church, where it is not done already, including churches, housing, schools, farming, forestry, investment portfolios, and offices, the guidance said.

The Church of England must protect and enhance nature across its land and buildings, including churchyards and investment assets.

Action has already been taken to divest the Church's investments from the most polluting fossil fuels, and commitments have been made to start to divest in 2020 from companies that are not helping the shift to a low carbon economy.

And the guidance to church leaders said local churches can act as a catalyst in their community for activities to cut carbon emissions, as well as preparing to provide sanctuary in extreme weather events and for climate refugees from within and outside of the UK.

Churches can also champion the care of nature, the environmental working group said.

Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury said: "As Christians and as a Church we hope to be good stewards of God's creation and to care for the environment. We commit to respond to the serious circumstances we face.

"It will need the commitment of everyone in the Church to engage strongly with our communities and establish creative policy frameworks that get the best out of people, not just because of anxiety but for the love of this wonderful creation."

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