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Church of England carbon footprint decreases

14 December 2022

Church buildings emitted about 410,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2021

Diocese of Carlisle

Christ Church, Cockermouth, in Carlisle diocese, hopes to shave £4000 off its £12,000 heating bill after sealing off the galleries and roof area for winter with thermal sheeting. The move, which cost £750, should reduce the church’s carbon footprint by three tonnes of carbon dioxide. A churchwarden, Roger Pritchett, and the Team Rector, Canon Jane Charman (pictured), say that the temperature in the pews has risen from 14° to 20°

Christ Church, Cockermouth, in Carlisle diocese, hopes to shave £4000 off its £12,000 heating bill after sealing off the galleries and roof area for w...

THE carbon footprint of Church of England buildings has reduced slightly in the year to 2021, the latest data from its national Energy Footprint Tool suggests.

The tool is an online calculator built by the statistics team at Church House, Westminster, to help the Church meet its target of becoming net-zero by 2030 (News, 14 February 2020). Parishes input their energy usage to discover how much carbon-dioxide equivalent they are using (News, 4 September 2020). The first results were reported last year (News, 12 February 2021).

Its second report, published on Wednesday, estimates that C of E buildings emitted about 410,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2021 — measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This is slightly down on the 417,000 tonnes reported in 2020.

The 2021 figure is based on data from 40 per cent of the total 32,000 C of E buildings (of which 15,500 are churches and 4000 are schools, most of which are primary). Most of these schools (68 per cent) and one third (32 per cent) of churches submitted usable data; the remainder were estimated. This is a wider response than the one third of all C of E buildings analysed in 2020.

Schools and churches were the biggest carbon contributors in 2021: schools emitted around 196,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases, up slightly from 195,000 tonnes in 2020, and churches 110,000 tonnes, down from 118,000 tonnes in 2020.

Church halls emitted a further 16,000 tonnes in 2021 — down from 19,000 in 2020. The emissions of cathedrals also reduced from 9500 to 8700 tonnes, as did diocesan offices (3000 to 1900), and NCIs (2500 to 2100). C of E housing, however, increased from 69,000 tonnes in 2020 to 72,000 in 2021. Most of this contribution (83 per cent) was heating.

In a breakdown of estimated emissions by diocese, 12 (out of 46 dioceses) increased from 2020. Two (Truro and Worcester) stayed the same. The biggest estimated increase was in Norwich: from 3200 tonnes in 2020 to 4200 in 2021.

The report notes that 2021, as with 2020, was not a “typical year”, owing to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown of buildings. Consequently, “there will be some buildings that were used much less frequently than usual, and others that will have been used more than usual.” It expects a clearer picture in 2022.

The Bishop of Selby, the Rt Revd John Thomson, who is the lead bishop for net zero carbon, said: “Despite the welcome return to public worship and to schools in 2021, the carbon decrease on the previous year is cause for encouragement.”

Christians had a duty to respond to the fuel crisis, he said. “Across the church, estate this means ensuring that the buildings are as energy efficient as possible, and that we are moving away from expensive fossil fuels by changing technology and using energy from green, sustainable sources.

“These are the solutions needed everywhere to halt global warming and to abate energy poverty.”

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