IT IS salutary to reread the 9 February 2007 issue of the Church Times, the date on which we launched the first Green Church Awards. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had just published its fourth assessment report. Supported by the work of 2500 scientists, the IPCC had concluded that: “Unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.” It expected that the effects would very probably increase, owing to “increased frequencies and intensities of some extreme weather events”, and that the process of global warming and sea levels’ rising would “continue for centuries” even if greenhouse-gas emissions were reduced to stable levels. It still argued that many of the effects could be “reduced, delayed or avoided” by mitigation. The fifth assessment report, in 2014, was, if anything, gloomier. The next report is due early next year.
The Church Times warned against fatalism and inertia in the face of what then seemed inevitable. What we failed to predict was that fatalism would be squeezed out of the equation for the next 14 years by two factors. One was the dogged persistence of those willing to deny the existence of climate change or at least, act as if it did not exist. Had it not been for a mishandled global virus, the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States, would still be pursuing a path towards the destruction of its own coastal cities, not to mention large population centres around the world.
The other was the determination of countless individuals to fight the effects of climate change through their own actions and pressure on the world’s governments. And that pressure is beginning to tell, as seen in the pledge last September by the world’s largest emitter, China, to be carbon-neutral by 2060. The warning signs are clearer than they were in 2007. Our conclusion in 2007 is as apposite now as then: “The preservation of a habitable planet will not come about by earnest preaching, but by the enthusiastic companionship of those who have already set out on the way. The doom-mongers are right when they say that isolated attempts at sustainability won’t be enough to effect a change. What will make a difference is the reproduction of those attempts across the globe.”
This time, we have concluded that, as pleasurable as it is to award prizes, the chief object is to promote the vast body of knowledge that churches and community groups have acquired in the past 20 years or more. We are confident that those who have worked so hard to reduce the carbon footprint of their building, conserve the land in their care, and campaign for government and corporate action will be willing to pass on their knowledge and encouragement to groups who, though willing, need practical advice and help. We believe that, with their participation, the Green Church Showcase can be an inspiration not only to other churches, but to the community at large.