Thursday, 28 January 2010

Climate Change Reception @ the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office organised a Climate Change reception at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 26th of January. Chloe Clemmons, the SCPO Parliamentary Officer mentioned that the purpose of the reception was to celebrate the Climate Change (Scotland) Act in particular the duty on the Scottish Government to publish a public engagement strategy in 2010, to reaffirm the commitment of the Church of Scotland to tackling climate change and supporting the Scottish Government in meeting the targets and finally, to highlight the role that congregations can play in delivering the targets set out in the Act. The Right Reverend William Hewitt, addressed the attendants, highlighting the role of faith-based organisations in the struggle to reduce CO2 emissions and modify life-styles. A copy of his speech is presented below.

I’m delighted to be here this evening to celebrate Scotland’s climate change legislation, and the role you have played in bringing it about. I’m told it is the strongest piece of climate change legislation in the world and if so then it is something we should be very proud of.

Many of you here were involved in the development of the legislation, both in this parliament and as lobbyists outside parliament. Stewart Stevenson was the Scottish Government Minister who piloted the legislation through parliament; MSPs debated it at length and in great detail and lobbyists from Stop Climate Chaos, of which the Church of Scotland is a member, lobbied tirelessly to strengthen the bill. The strength of the Bill is a testament to all your endeavours.

You have set us the challenge of reducing our emission of greenhouse gases by 42% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.

These are spectacularly challenging figures. To get near these targets we will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in almost every aspect of our material lives. This will mean changes in the way we travel, in manufacturing, shopping, in our homes and in how we live our lives.

This will not happen automatically and it won’t happen just because the law says it should. It will require the active support, participation and involvement of people and communities across Scotland.

This is why the climate change engagement strategy that the legislation requires is so important. The Scottish Government will have to win over 5 million Scots to the importance of this task and make them believe that climate change is so serious that we have to make these changes.

We believe that people can change their lives to respond to climate change and we are challenging congregations to do just that.

Churches and congregations can help the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government achieve this objective. I say this for a number of reasons.

Those of you who were at The Wave, the march in Glasgow on 5 December organised by Stop Climate Chaos will have seen how many marchers were from church congregations. The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Cardinal Keith o Brien and myself had the privilege of leading the march and of demonstrating our commitment.

I say it because over 230 congregations have now joined Eco-Congregation Scotland, the largest movement of community environment groups in Scotland. These are congregations across the country that are concerned about climate change and are asking ‘what can we do to respond to climate change in our lives and in our communities?’

And I say it because of the commitment that all faith groups are making to care for the earth. At a gathering last year in Windsor Castle organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation faith groups from around the world met to reaffirm this commitment. This is a universal theme for all faith groups: the earth is not ours to squander ; we have to care for it and sustain its life and in doing so sustain hope for the future.

The Wave and the Windsor gathering were great events and give us hope.

We were disappointed by the Copenhagen conference and its outcome. It did not deliver the international agreement we were all hoping for. But we must not let this distract us from what we have to do here in Scotland and we must now redouble our efforts. In communities and congregations across Scotland we must embrace this message and take action. We do not have to wait for international negotiations; we can lead by example.

Monday, 25 January 2010

'No Fly' Climate Change Summit

Adrian Shaw, has forwarded us the following article from Trevor Grundy through the Ecumencial news International.

Faith activists take part in 'no fly' climate change summit ENI-10-0044

By Trevor Grundy
London, 19 January (ENI)--Religious leaders who are concerned about the outcome of the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, called COP15, have held their first "no fly" conference, and have urged politicians to follow the example of the world's great faiths in the fight against climate change.

"It is inspiring that we can use modern technology to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims from across the globe to talk about how their sacred texts inspire them to preserve God's creation, without the need for flying," said Rachel Ward of the Bible Society, which initiated the online conference.

A panel of faith activists and environmentalists in Washington, Nairobi, Jerusalem and Geneva used video conferencing technology to exchange information about climate change with each other and with others who logged in for the discussion.

The meeting took place within a new online social network called Faith Climate Connect.
Participants at the 14 January video discussions, "discussed the practical role that faith, and in particular sacred texts, can take following the disappointments of COP15," said Simon Cohen, whose Global Tolerance company helped arrange the "no fly" conference.

They event organizers said the key to the future is to increase dialogue without increasing carbon footprints, and that "no fly" meetings linking environmentalists, religious leaders and politicians is now the best way forward.

"We have to connect all our networks around the globe, and use every means at our disposal to secure a future for the planet. It belongs to God. We have it on trust," said James Jones, the Anglican bishop of Liverpool.

A survey of people using Faithbook, an inter-faith networking page on Facebook, found that nearly half of all religious people would like their spiritual leaders to cut down on air travel as part of an effort to tackle climate change.

The Bible Society commissioned the survey, in which 64 percent of the 285 people questioned said they believed religions had not done enough to tackle climate change.

"With the failure of Copenhagen, the role of civil society becomes paramount," Alison Hilliard, a representative of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a group that campaigns to link faith groups and environmental issues, told Ecumenical News International.

Those taking part in the networked video conference included Professor Jesse Mugambi, who teaches religious studies at the University of Nairobi, and is a member of a World Council of Churches working group on climate change.

Others included Rabbi Michael Kagan from Jerusalem, who is co-founder of the Jewish Climate Initiative, and Professor Seyyed Nasr in Washington DC, who is an authority on Islamic science and spirituality, and one of the patrons of the Religious Education and Environment Programme, which provides materials for teachers in Britain. [470 words] ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed. See All articles (c) Ecumenical News International .

Video conferencing photgraph by by scottfeldstein.

Monday, 18 January 2010

St Mary's Episcopal Church, Dunblane

Kate Nash from St Mary's Episcopal Church in Dunbalne has sent us this account of the work being done at her church. I am sure that it will be an inspiration for many churches.

January 2010

As I write this blog the temperature outside is well below freezing, and the ground is covered with snow, several centimetres deep. It is a beautiful scene. This so far has been the coldest winter for several decades and the sceptics are busy muttering about the claims of climate change on our planet. It is a small minded view, as an article in The Guardian has stated this week; the most basic meteorology is that weather is not the same as climate and single events are not the same as trends. Martyn Brown, writing in The Express states “one of the worst winters for decades in this country is not the same as the world, where in parts the temperature is above average at this time.”

In 2006 when St Mary’s Episcopal Church decided to join the Eco-Congregation movement, it was not only the prospect of the problems of climate change affecting our planet, although this was certainly a major concern. It was also a wake up call that we are all in some way responsible for caring for our environment. Here in Dunblane we are surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in the UK. We must treat it with respect.

Dave Bookless writes in A Rocha (Spring 2006) “There is no excuse for environmental exploitation, we are accountable to the Creator. There is no theological ground for humanity having ‘the right’ to do what it pleases with the natural order.”

Here in St Mary’s in 2006 we started off our eco-congregation journey with a Harvest Festival service, celebrating creation with hymns and prayers. Special Eco services since have involved our younger members performing the play “Planet Doctor”.
The small renovated chapel on the Kilbryde estate on the outskirts of Dunblane was the venue for our Environment Week service. Most of us walked or cycled along the beautiful lanes to this event.

We have also celebrated birds during the RSBP National Bird Watch week with a special service, after which we placed bird boxes around the church
grounds. More attention has been paid to recycling and cutting down on waste, and buying cleaning products which are eco friendly, and catering goods from Fair Trade outlets.

An informative visit to a local Wind Farm has given us an insight into renewable energy and we are in contact with the newly formed Dunblane Transition Town movement, which has recently been successful in obtaining a government grant of £266,000. This will enable the provision of energy saving advice to every household in the town, with the aim of fully insulating every home.

The youngest members of our church and adjoining school have been encouraged to grow plants. At a school assembly in the Autumn we had a short service with the theme of ‘seeds’ The children were encouraged to collect (under adult supervision) as many seeds as they could find. In the Spring we hope to organise a seed planting afternoon. In Lent last year they researched endangered species and placed pictures of these on a poster of Noah’s Ark.

There is still plenty of room for improvement. As a society we are all too reliant on our cars. It is difficult to decide to walk or cycle when the weather is abysmal. Our church and Hall are heated by an antiquated and often unreliable form of heating. Each year costs are rising, and there is a pressing need to change this. There are grants, but a large project like this will need an enormous amount of money. However investigations will go ahead and we hope for a positive outcome.

The Right Reverend Bill Hewitt, Moderator of the Church of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland writing in The Herald (23rd December 2009) stated that climate change is the single biggest challenge to humanity’s stewardship of the Earth and so far we are failing the test. It is a moral issue and it is in our hands to change the way we treat our planet. If government groups cannot lead, then faith groups must step forward. We must show, community by community, that where governments have failed, the people can succeed.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Faith Climate Connect

Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Policy Officer has sent us a link to the Faith Climate connect website. It has really interesting material.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Church of Scotland's response to Conserve & Save

The Church of Scotland has prepared a response to the Scottish Government's Energy Efficiency Action Plan. Adrian Shaw, Climate Change officer at the Church of Scotland, was kind enough to send us the reponse document to this important consultation. The response will be posted in 2 parts.


Consultation by the Scottish Government on the Energy Efficiency Action Plan for Scotland (October 2009)

Response by the Church of Scotland

1. The Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency Action Plan will be a crucial document in shaping the Scottish Government’s response to climate change and to other energy challenges in the coming decade. The targets set out in the Scottish Climate Change Act demand a massive reduction in Scotland’s carbon dioxide emissions and the energy efficiency action plan is an essential part of the tool kit to achieve these cuts. It is also essential to tackle the growing problem of fuel poverty. For these reasons it is essential that the plan is sufficiently strong and comprehensive to deliver on both objectives.

2. The consultation document sets out in some detail a large number of initiatives that could be taken forward by the action plan. Some areas of work, such as housing, are covered in some detail. Other areas of equal importance such as transport are covered in much less detail. If we are to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to meet the targets in the Scottish Climate Change Act there will need to be rapid progress in all the areas included in the document.

3. Similarly if global demand for fuel continues to increase then rising domestic energy prices will push more people into fuel poverty. A detailed long term strategy will be needed to address this issue. The proposals in the consultation document go some way towards these aspirations but will need to be amplified and developed further if they are to be effective. In short, the proposals set out in the document are only the beginning.

Responding to climate change
“The Church of Scotland is concerned that climate change poses a serious and immediate threat to people everywhere, particularly to the poor of the earth; and that climate change represents a failure in our stewardship of God’s creation. We accept the need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases urgently to avoid dangerous and irreversible climate change; and to promote a more equitable and sustainable use of energy.”

4. The approach that the Church of Scotland is developing is to challenge congregations to learn about climate change, to work out their own carbon footprint and to make a commitment to reduce this by 5% a year. This approach stresses personal and collective responsibility. It challenges congregations to take action because of their faith.

5. The Church of Scotland is working with other denominations to promote this approach through Eco-Congregation Scotland. This is an ecumenical movement of 230 congregations across Scotland and participating congregations have made a commitment to take practical action to care for creation. In 2009 Eco-Congregation Scotland published a guide for congregations explaining how they can measure and reduce their carbon footprint, not only in their church buildings but also in their homes, in the travel and in their communities.

6. People are not just passive consumers of energy who are incapable of change; rather they are individuals and communities who can choose to take action for the better. This choice is critical for the success of the action plan and to ensure the successful implementation of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. If individuals and communities across Scotland can be inspired to take action to change their behaviour then the targets set out in the Act may be achievable; but if not, then it is unlikely that the proposals will be successful. For these reasons we believe that behaviour change should be given the highest priority in the action plan.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Strategic Context
7. The plan identifies a reduction in unnecessary energy use as a priority and energy efficiency as the tool to achieve this. The scale of the changes required to meet the Scottish Government’s target of an 80% reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases by 2050 are enormous and represent a major challenge for everybody in Scotland: individuals, communities, businesses as well as government. To achieve this ambitious target will require changes in these way we live and do business and the way in which government develops policy. Inevitably these changes will affect the lives of people and communities across Scotland.

Chapter 2: Current trends in energy usage
8. The chapter makes the point that here have been improvements in energy efficiency in many sectors of the economy but that these improvements have been outstripped by increasing consumption. Cars engines are more efficient than they used to be, but drivers have chosen to buy larger and more powerful cars and there are more cars on the road. The net result is that the total amount of fuel used in road transport has increased and with it the contribution of road traffic to Scotland’s carbon dioxide emissions.

9. The gap between current trends in energy use and those we need to establish to reduce energy use are so great that there will need to be a step change in our behaviour and actions. We are not convinced that the consultation document faces up to the scale of the challenges or the behaviour change needed to achieve these changes. As noted above while it is a useful start much more needs to be done to bring about these changes.

End of Part 1.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

After Copenhagen, what now for development?

There will be a talk given by Mr. Herman Rosa Chavez, Minister of the Environment, government of El Salvador on Sunday January 17th 6-8pm at the Lauriston Jesuit Centre located on 28 Lauriston Street Edinburgh EH3 9DJ. Everyone welcome.

After Copenhagen, What next?

The Copenhagen conference was a huge disappointment to us all. Yet we cannot give up or walk away from climate change; we have to respond and if governments cannot lead the faith groups must. There is encouragement in a letter of 23rd December Herald from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – a copy is attached. The letter is not just aimed at the Church of Scotland or even eco-congregations, but at the widest possible audience. It says faith groups can and must lead the response to climate change; a powerful message of hope and support at a difficult time. We need not wait for governments; we can lead. This is the message of hope for the New Year.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Letter published in The Herald,
Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Faith groups must now give a lead and show politicians how to save the planet
The news from Copenhagen that the world’s political leaders have failed to find a collective way to tackle climate change is devastating for us all, but especially for the world’s poorest people.
Climate change is the single biggest challenge to humanity’s stewardship of the Earth and so far we are failing the test. Doing everything we can to reduce our carbon emissions and to take care of this world we have been given is not simply a political or an economic issue, or even an environmental one. It is a moral issue. People are dying because of our actions and our inaction and yet somehow this has been lost in political machinations and national stand-offs.
This issue will not go away. We cannot avoid the consequences of our own lack of care for the planet. Neither can those whose carbon footprint is much lower than ours but whose vulnerability to the devastation of global warming is far greater.
If governments cannot lead, then faith groups and others must step forward to do so. We cannot change the world but we can show, community by community, that where politicians have failed the people can succeed. Having been let down by our political leaders, it is in our hands to change the way we treat our planet. We need to use our power as consumers, as activists, as members of global organisations, as digital citizens, as believers in hope over adversity to change the way the world lives on Earth. We now need to lead our leaders to show them the way.

Right Reverend Bill Hewitt, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,121 George Street, Edinburgh

Bookmark this on Delicious