The Church of England has the target to be net carbon zero by 2030. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby wrote: "It becomes ever clearer that climate change is the greatest challenge that we and future generations face. It's our sacred duty to protect the natural world we've so generously been given, as well as our neighbours around the world who will be first and worst affected. Without swift decisive action the consequences of climate change will be devastating."
Five churches in the Craven area of Yorkshire have been working together to work out how to achieve this challenging target. We have a representative selection of buildings: from a small village church to a large Grade 1 listed medieval church in a market town, including some which are in conservation areas and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We call ourselves 'Towards Carbon Neutral Churches in Craven' and are keen to share our findings as widely as we can.
We held regular video meetings from September 2020 and throughout 2021 and successfully applied for an RCEF grant for a feasibility study by a consultant engineer.
We held project launches in each of the churches in the Spring of 2021. These took the form of Climate Sunday services, linking with COP26. Our main project launch included the Bishop of Ripon, Rt Revd Helen-Ann Hartley, and was held at Holy Trinity Church, Skipton.
The engineers looked at our heating and electricity data and our buildings and made a detailed recommendation on new heating systems, with some electricity generation.
The final report, which was received in December 2021, gave guidance on how to achieve the target of carbon net zero, including how to finance the recommendations. The engineers recommended the installation of heat pumps to replace fossil fuel boilers, together with the use of roof or ground-mounted solar PV panels and a 'green' electricity tariff.
Throughout the feasibility study phase (year 1) we have sought to keep our local communities informed and engaged. We have held exhibitions and provided updates via local media and social media.
We think that the installation of the recommendations will be achieved with a mixture of grant funding, match funding and fund-raising.
We are very aware that we are just at the start of our journey to carbon net zero and are encouraging all the churches in the group to make a plan for the years to 2030.
We found it invaluable to be working in a group with other churches. We have been able to share expertise and to support and encourage each other.
We have tried to keep our local communities informed about our aims and our work. We have found that local people who are not otherwise connected with the church have been keen to help us. We have used social media, local newspapers and displays in each of our churches to pass on information about the project.
We have also sought to keep our local council and National Park informed about our plans. Before submitting our application, we contacted many organisations and individuals and received many letters of support.
We have also taken advice from other groups who are working on a similar target.
A key part of our project is that others should be able to learn from our findings:
i) We included a dissemination webinar for other churches in the Diocese.
ii) We have webpages about our project, including links to useful sources of information.
iii) We have made a video about our project.
iv) We are happy to be contacted by other churches and similar organisations on [email protected]
Our top tips would be: work together with others for mutual encouragement and support and have a long-term plan.
Reduction in carbon emissions.