Westminster Diocese committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030

Photo: Lawrence Lew OP

Photo: Lawrence Lew OP

Source: Diocese of Westminster

The Diocese of Westminster has committed to do its utmost to become carbon neutral by 2030 in its parishes and curial buildings. It has also expressed its commitment to working with schools to encourage them to follow the same path.

As Pope Francis explains in Laudato Si’, caring for God’s created world and cooperating with the Holy Spirit in this work of creation is everyone’s responsibility, not least that of the faithful.

Taking the lead and setting an example for others is an important part of this work. To that end the diocese has been working for a number of years to transition away from reliance on carbon fuels and to implement policies that will promote a greener future.

The comprehensive plan, which currently includes 14 policies and 43 separate project streams, focuses on four pillars:

1. Clean energy sources: Since 2017, a concerted effort has been made to transition towards cleaner sources of electricity and gas supply for parishes and diocesan offices. We have worked proactively with other dioceses to establish Inter Fuel Management (IFM), a Catholic mutual which sources energy from green sources. Together with Churchmarketplace, another Catholic mutual owned by the dioceses of England and Wales, which increases our collective purchasing power, we rely on these partners to help us find solutions that will enable the transition to a carbon neutral future. Currently, 100% of the electricity supply is from green sources, as over 70% of the gas supply comes from the by-product of biological processes, with the remainder being offset. As the bio gas market expands, we expect that 100% of our gas supply will come from green sources.

2. Investment policy: For a number of years, we have been working with other churches to use our collective investment portfolios to engage with energy companies to encourage them along the path of decarbonisation. Our investment portfolio does not include shares in any major coal producers, producers of oil from oil sands or in companies that do not engage fully with disclosure projects. In the past couple of years we have taken the additional decision to divest entirely by the end of 2021 from electrical utility and fossil fuel companies that have not taken any steps to manage their businesses in line with the Paris Accord (that is, to limit temperature rises to well below 2C above pre-industrial times). We are on track to meet this objective.

3. Carbon emissions from energy usage in parishes and diocesan buildings: There are two simple, but difficult, steps that will be taking to reduce carbon emissions: a) reducing consumption, and b) eliminating carbon being burnt. Reducing consumption requires a change in each of us, a conversion, to understand that it is up to each one of us to reduce energy use. Today, more than ever, priests and people are very aware of the need to reduce consumption and are already taking steps. It is our hope to continue to encourage everyone to reduce their consumption.

Eliminating carbon emissions as a by-product of consumption is more challenging. It will require changing heating systems in all properties, including diocesan offices, residential units, presbyteries, churches and other ancillary parish buildings. Some of these will be easier to change than others. With changes in technology, it will be possible to install heating systems that use clean energy, such as ground source heating, in residential properties. Changing heating systems in our churches can be substantially more challenging because of the size and nature of these buildings, and the historical listing of some of them. However, we are committed to helping parishes along this journey, and will be focusing on helping those parishes that have higher energy consumption at present to find the right solution, such as underfloor heating which uses electricity.

4. Generating energy: With technology continuing to evolve, we hope that it will be possible for us to generate energy using the various parish and diocesan properties. Some clean energy generation, such as solar panels, can be difficult because of the nature of church roofs, particularly on listed churches. However, other sources, such as ground source energy and wind energy, may prove viable options. We already have a number of successful examples of energy generating systems in parishes and other diocesan properties. These sources of energy can help us accelerate the move away from carbon sources, and provide a viable alternative to the benefit of our communities.

As part of the culture shift, we are also embedding these pillars in our decision-making processes. This will affect every project we undertake, including building and/or refurbishing properties.

We have already made some strides along the path to a carbon neutral future. It is not an easy process, but this is a calling and a responsibility for us all. Working together with everyone, as well as anticipated technological advances and changes in government policies, will enable us to achieve our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Supporting the Young Christian Climate Relay

Day 1 – Molly Clarke sets outs on the first leg of the Relay

A group of young Christians (18-30s) are organising a Relay, walking from the G7 in Cornwall (13th June) to COP26 in Glasgow (1st November) for climate justice. People are joining the Relay from thousands of different churches all along the route. Walkers can be of all ages but to be one of the leaders you have to be under 30!

The Relay reaches London on 2nd August and Hertfordshire on 10th August. There will be overnight stops in the parishes of Ashford, Twickenham, Muswell Hill, Borehamwood, Hemel Hempstead and Tring.

Two events are beings hosted on behalf of the Diocese of Westminster in Central London on 6th August – a vegan lunch at Farm Street Church, Mayfair, at 1pm followed by a walk to Westminster Cathedral and an Ecumenical Climate Prayer Service at the Cathedral at 3.30pm.

Friday 6th August, 1.00-3.30pm : YCCN Climate Relay  Lunch at Farm Street and Walk to Westminster Cathedralhttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/163375276851

Friday 6th August 3.30-4.00pm: Ecumenical Climate Prayer Service at Westminster Cathedral Welcoming the YCCN Relayhttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/163372454409

To find out more about the YCCN Relay, the route, events at all the other churches, and how to sign up to join the walkers or support the Relay for a day or more visit – https://www.yccn.uk/

#RiseToTheMoment

Countdown to COP26

Source: Independent Catholic News

The United Nations climate talks (also known as the Conference of Parties or COP), that were scheduled to have taken place in Glasgow in 2020, will now take place 1-12 November 2021. COP26 will be biggest summit ever hosted in the UK – Covid permitting – with around 30,000 attendees expected.

It is the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement. That is because COP26 is the first summit when countries must report back on their progress since the Paris Agreement and set out more ambitious goals for ending their contribution to climate change.

DATES

23-25 July The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick: Annual Justice and Peace Conference- Action for Life on Earth’ With talks and workshops linked to COP26.
www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/conference/

18-26 September Great Big Green Week – Action on Climate Change
https://greatbiggreenweek.com/

4 October – Launch of the Laudato Si Action Platform
www.laudatosiactionplatform.org

1-12 November Civil Society Convergence Spaces – creative hubs across Glasgow where activists can gather and connect together, warm up with food and drink, book meeting rooms, produce artwork and socialise.
https://cop26coalition.org/

5-6 November Days of Action in Glasgow and across the UK

7-9 November Alternative Summit in Glasgow in-person and online

WALKING TO COP26

Young Christian Climate Network
www.yccn.uk
Cornwall to Glasgow 13 June – 30 October

Camino to COP26
https://caminotocop.com
London to Glasgow 5 September – 29 October

WEBSITES

Glasgow COP action
https://cop26coalition.org/

The Climate Coalition
www.theclimatecoalition.org/

Global Catholic Climate Movement
https://catholicclimatemovement.global/

Green Christian COP26
https://greenchristian.org.uk/cop-26-glasgow-2021/

CAMPAIGNS

Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition
https://thecatholicpetition.org/

Catholic Climate & Ecological Emergency Network (CCLEEN) – Fostering ecological conversion in the spirit of Laudato Si’, authenticated by action within the Church and advocacy in society.
https://christianclimateaction.org/2020/10/25/new-catholic-cca-initiative/

Reclaim our common home CAFOD Campaign includes calling on banks to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest nations. https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Latest-campaigns

Eyes of the World – CAFOD Schools Campaign on climate change.
https://blog.cafod.org.uk/2021/06/08/schools-leading-the-way-on-climate-campaigning/

Operation Noah’s Bright Now Campaign for fossil-free churches
https://brightnow.org.uk

Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. The Bill asks the UK to take responsibility for its fair share of greenhouse gas emissions. www.ceebill.uk

Global Justice Now
www.globaljustice.org.uk/

Updated by the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) Environment Working group.

Fr Tom O’Brien Address for London Climate Action Week Interfaith Service

Father Tom O’Brien, Parish Priest of Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew, Hitchin, and member of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave the following address at the online interfaith service to mark the start of London Climate Action Week “Take Care for our common home” on 27th June 2021.

Coming together as we are today, united in a passionate concern for our common home and sharing our insights and beliefs, is precisely what Pope Francis wanted to happen when, in 2015, he wrote a letter to everyone in the world called Laudato Si or Praise be to you. Recognising that we face a catastrophic crisis, Pope Francis publicly proclaimed and clarified our deep concern for the destruction happening to our planet. He also recognised that this crisis can only be addressed together and globally. Whatever our differences of faith or of non-faith, we are all united in our growing concern for the future of our planet. The letter spells out the challenges we face clearly and succinctly and also recognises that we need to act now before it’s too late.

We believe that God called us to be stewards of creation which Pope Francis summarises as cultivating, ploughing, working, as well as caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving the natural world. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. It is a call to work with a creation that is only too willing to work with us.

The letter recognises that: “We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment” (#141).

Throughout the letter care for the earth is conjoined with care for the poor. They are indispensably connected. Laudato Si: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: ‘Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest'” (#48).

Our exploitation and abuse of the resources of the earth have led to increased Tsunamis, a continuing global rise in temperature that affects climate in a way that the poor, who depend on the land for sustenance, face long term droughts leading to a lack of clean water and starvation (25,000 a day, UN). Seeking survival leads them into underpaid jobs in which they are exploited, their basic rights are ignored and their freedom denied, so that we can have cheaper food and cheaper clothes to which they have no access. Laudato Si states There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology” (#118).

We are called to an inner conversion to a radical change in lifestyle, to living more simply, being less wasteful, to recycle and re-use, to be more generous to those in need. We must urgently lobby the government not to decrease our overseas support aid and even increase it.

Some of the fastest growing businesses in America are in energy efficiency and renewable energy helping produce the same output for half the energy.”

Businesses, who promote sustainability through the supply chain, have reduced their costs. They see pollution as a form of waste.

An organization that doesn’t waste anything is proved to be more efficient and more profitable.

Young people, led by the likes of Greta Thunberg, are calling for and fighting for a radical reduction in Co2 emissions. The recent G7 meeting has committed to fading out the use of fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy.

Being positive and hopeful is actually an important way to combat climate change. “We must look toward our positive shared future. The more we articulate the ability to get to that place, the more likely we are to get there.”

Expression of Hope;

Encouragingly, in Laudato Si, Pope Francis adds:

“Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing what is good, and making a new start, whatever their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us. (#205)”

This was the first time London Climate action week had held an interfaith service and it was organised by South London interfaith group and Faiths Forum for London. Among the wide range of speakers there was humanist Richard Norman and pagan Robin Horne. Dr Ruth Valerio of Tearfund, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Zahra Kanani from Streatham mosque, Zoroastrian Vista Khosravi, Robert Harrap General director of SGI-UK, Sikh Balbir Singh Bakshi and Jain Varsha Dodhia all spoke about what there faith teaches about Creation and some of the practical actions their communities have undertaken. Bishop Karowei Dorgu, Anglican Bishop of Woolwich spoke about Southwark as an eco-diocese and what parishes are doing.

The recording can be found at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np08uqSWiok

A Celebration of Trees

Tree Walkers, Morpeth Terrace, behind Westminster Cathedral, London, SW1

Source: Ellen Teague, Independent Catholic News

How often do we notice the trees in places familiar to us?..

Why is it important to do so?..

And what does care of trees have to do with our faith?..

On Sunday 27 June, I joined a group finding out about trees in the vicinity of Westminster Cathedral. I’ve visited the area many times since childhood, but hardly noticed them before now.

This was an event as part of London Climate Action Week. The experience, organised by Westminster Justice and Peace, was special because it seems to be the first time that valuing trees was firmly on the agenda of a diocesan body.

It seemed strange to be gathering outside the Cathedral under a banner, ‘Tree Walk from Westminster Cathedral,’ but it shouldn’t have been. Care of Creation is an element of Catholic Social Teaching, all underlined by the 2015 Encyclical, Laudato Si’.

Colette Joyce, Westminster Justice & Peace Co-ordinator, led the two-hour walk. She reflected on the importance of trees within Christian tradition and invited contemplation of some of the many beautiful trees within easy walking distance of Westminster Cathedral.

As we strolled, we were encouraged to think about the nature and purpose of trees, especially their role in maintaining a stable climate that enables all life Earth to exist and thrive. Trees bind soil, remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, as well as providing a home for many species of birds and insects. Along the way we considered, too, the significance we attach to trees – from the solemn prayer before the wood of the Cross to the celebratory decoration of Christmas trees.

When we met outside Westminster Cathedral’s West Door we were immediately invited to admire the two mature London Plane trees in the piazza. Plane was widely planted as a street tree during the 18th and 19th centuries, being sturdy and suitable for city life for many reasons. It requires little root space and can survive in most soils and a wide range of temperatures. One of these two trees provided welcome shade for my son James who spent a number of hours standing with young people from dioceses around England and Wales waiting to see Pope Benedict during his visit in 2010. The Westminster youth contingent was under the Plane tree nearest the West Door, and he was very grateful.

We learnt that more than half of London’s eight million trees are Planes and they provide the important service of removing pollution from the atmosphere. The mottled olive, brown and grey bark breaks away in large flakes to reveal new cream-coloured bark underneath, a process which cleanses the tree of pollution stored in the outer bark. Each year London’s trees remove 2,241 tonnes of pollution which is a major contribution to public health.

When we moved off down Morpeth Terrace we passed rows of Plane trees and stopped at the end under a statue of St Francis of Assisi for a short reflection and prayer. Then there was Willow Place, named after Willow trees that were formerly common here. And Ginkgo in Rochester Road, a tree which survived the dinosaurs and the ice age, and, Colette told us, was the first tree to recover in Hiroshima after the city was destroyed by a nuclear bomb in August 1945. Then we walked around Vincent Square, a 13-acre green space lined with mature trees including London Plane. In Rutherford Street we admired the Silver Birches, whose white bark reflects heat and whose tolerance to pollution makes them a common sight in urban landscapes. Silver Birches also provides food and habitat to more than 300 insect species.

By gardens near the Cardinal Hume Centre we heard the tenth century, ‘The Dream of the Rood’ and heard how trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people. 56 Bible verses talk about trees.

We crossed Victoria Street and sat down in a grassy area for a short reflection on what trees mean to us. “Daily walks in the trees of Dulwich Wood got me though Covid” said one person. “This walk is a spiritual journey, about making a connection with trees,” said another.

“They’re the lungs of the world,” and “we must learn to keep the mature trees, not just plant new ones,” seemed to be common concerns about global deforestation and the HS2 project in particular in Britain. One member of the group lamented the disruption around Euston Station where she lives and has seen several public gardens destroyed and trees axed. We considered the quote from JRR Tolkien on our flier: ‘Every tree has its enemy, few have an advocate. In all my works I take the part of trees against all their enemies.’

Of course, London used to be covered in forest. This is reflected in the fact that so many parts of London are named after trees and woods. There’s the three Oaks (Burnt, Gospel and Honor), Nine Elms, Royal Oak Station, Wood Green, Forest Hill and Forest Gate.

Our final stop was St James’ Park, a green gem of 57 acres and we stopped to admire a Black Mulberry, Weeping Beech and a Caucasian Wingnut! There are around 1,250 individual trees in St James’s Park from around 35 species. The two islands in the lake, with their secluded woodlands and shrubberies, serve as nesting sites and refuges for birds. As we watched the ducks and geese waddling between the trees we thanked Colette profusely for this beautiful experience.

The walk was so successful that she has organised another one on 5 September! Several people have booked in already.

London Climate Action Week Events – 26th June – 4th July 2021

Circular Tree Walk from Westminster Cathedral – Sunday 5 September 2021, 3-5pm
Book with Eventbrite. Free.

Message from the Global Catholic Climate Movement

We cannot afford to have what happened at the G7 meeting happen at two big United Nations summits in October and November.

We must do better: Join Catholics everywhere and sign the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” petition.

The G7 meeting did produce some good news for our common home, but right now, to be honest, good isn’t good enough. We need bold leadership. We need inspiring action, and we need prophetic agreements from world leaders.

Sign the Health Planet, Healthy People Petition

As Catholics, we owe it to our sisters and brothers around the globe to make sure that world leaders do better later this year. At the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), scheduled for October in China, global leaders will have the opportunity to set meaningful and robust targets to protect creation.

In November, at the United Nations 26th annual Climate Change Conference (COP26), countries must announce their plans to meet the goals of the historic 2015 Paris agreement.

Between now and October, it’s our responsibility as Catholics to make sure world leaders know how to care for God’s creation.

In the petition we’re calling for leaders to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis together, and to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, among other must-dos.

This year, we have an opportunity like no other. We can and must let world leaders know what’s at stake. Tell world leaders what you think: Sign the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People petition.”

Blessings,

Tomás Insua
Executive Director
GCCM

G7 Interfaith Event – Report from Cornwall

Watch interfaith messages to G7 leaders from an Interfaith Event organised by CAFOD at Truro Cathedral on the eve of the G7 Leaders meeting in Cornwall, Thursday 10th June 2021.

Source: Ellen Teague, Independent Catholic News

Truro Cathedral hosted an online ‘act of witness’ this evening, on the eve of the G7 summit. Participants sent messages to world leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States that people of faith in the UK and internationally expect the leaders at their summit in Cornwall to put in place plans for a global green recovery from Covid-19 and other crises.

The event was organised by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, World Vision, Islamic Relief and Faith for the Climate Network. Speakers were from faith groups and from communities affected by the coronavirus, climate, and debt crises globally. Young campaigners who had travelled to Cornwall for the G7 summit were among around 80 people in the Cathedral but more than 1,000 joined online. Afterwards, CAFOD provided an online message board where anybody could send a message online to the leaders.

Ruth Valerio, Canon Theologian of Rochester Cathedral, welcomed everybody and homed in on the issues of vaccines, debt cancellation and climate action. She felt the G7 and COP26 in Glasgow in November provide, “huge opportunities for us to leave the damaging track we have been on.” Some hands of the ‘waves of hope’ initiative were waved in the cathedral.

Fr Augusto Zampini of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission called for better international access to vaccines and the suspension of intellectual property rights, which have held up vaccine distribution. He urged the cancellation of the debts of poor countries and called on G7 leaders, “to take seriously the commitment to care for our common home and implement the Paris Agreement of 2015”. He felt, we must “use creativity to improve our relationship with ecosystems” and “do our best to change this course of ecological destruction.”

Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam of Salisbury urged for political leaders “to put aside selfish concerns and work for the world’s common good.” He wanted the UK government to reinstate the full foreign aid budget which was reduced last year. His focus was a call for spiritual change and to rebuild human relationship with creation and the creator. “We cannot depend on techno-optimism” he suggested. Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth received a clap when, quoting from Laudato Si’, he said the Catholic Church stood alongside other denominations and faiths in listening “to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He urged a reduction in consumption, work for change in the direction of justice, and community conversion to act for the common good. And he touched on the need for structural change, particularly re-evaluating the current model of economic growth which promotes inequality and commodification of the environment.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and a young Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist called for moves towards a more sustainable relationship with nature. Andy Norfolk, Pagan representative from the Cornwall Faiths Forum, said faiths, “should find it easy to find a vision for a better world” and urged G7 leaders to look beyond short-termism and urgently address long term challenges. Davina Bacon of the Young Christian Climate Network spoke of the young people’s relay walk to Glasgow, starting on Sunday, recalling that “the tradition of pilgrimage is strong in many faiths.” She also highlighted that near the affluent G7 conference centre and local holiday homes around St Ives live many people on low incomes. She told the G7, “when you are making decisions – remember those made poor by systemic injustice; they don’t have a seat at your table.”

CAFOD G7 Interfaith Event – Thursday 10th June, 7pm Livestreamed from Truro Cathedral

Building a Better World after the Pandemic

 CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) is live-streaming an event organised in conjunction with Christian Aid, Tearfund, World Vision, Islamic Relief and Faith for the Climate on Thursday 10th June at 7.00-8.00pm

It will be hosted by Truro Cathedral for people of faith to reflect ahead of the G7 summit and send a message to world leaders. 

The G7 summit will see heads of government of seven of the world’s richest countries – including President Joe Biden – travel to Cornwall and discuss how the world can rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a crucial role to play, with the UK holding the presidency of the G7, CAFOD wants to send a message to him and the other G7 leaders that people of faith in the UK and around the world expect them to put in place plans for a global and green recovery from the crisis which leaves no one behind. 

The pandemic means people can’t all travel to Cornwall to send this message to the leaders at the summit.

But that doesn’t stop people from coming together online in an act of witness. 
So, instead of travelling to Cornwall, CAFOD invites people to join together on laptops, tablets or phones at an event on Thursday 10 June.

There will be reflections on the impact of the pandemic, rebuilding and sending a digital message to the presidents and prime ministers ahead at the start of their meeting the next day.

Visit the CAFOD website and register to watch online

London Climate Action Week: Tree Walk with Colette Joyce, Sunday 27 June 3-5pm

Westminster Cathedral

Join Colette Joyce, Westminster Justice & Peace Co-ordinator, for a circular Tree Walk from Westminster Cathedral, 3-5pm on Sunday 27th June.

Families and children welcome. Free.

Colette will help us reflect on the importance of trees within the Christian tradition and invite contemplation of some of the many beautiful trees within easy walking distance of Westminster Cathedral. As we walk, we will think about the nature and purpose of trees, especially their role in maintaining a stable climate that enables all life on land to exist and thrive.

Trees are essential to life on earth as we know it. They bind soil, remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, as well as providing a home for many species from birds to insects to squirrels.

Along the way we will consider, too, the significance we attach to trees – from the celebratory decoration of the Christmas tree to the solemn prayer before the wood of the cross.

Meet outside Westminster Cathedral

This is an easy level circular walk. There is an option to leave the walk in St James’ Park, if you prefer, or to return to the Cathedral starting point by 5pm.

Advance registration will help us to meet health and safety requirements. Thank you.

Register with Eventbrite

The Tree Walk is one of many events – talks, seminars, actions – taking place for London Climate Action Week

More About London Climate Action Week – 26th June – 4th July 2021