Image of a church in a lightbulb with a green leaf

Guardians of Creation launches decarbonisation guidance

The ‘Guardians of Creation’ project has launched a new series of materials providing decarbonisation guidance for Catholic dioceses.

This project is an initiative of Diocese of Salford, which runs our Laudato Si’ Centre, and has piloted materials designed for use in all 22 Dioceses in England and Wales.

The guidance was produced in collaboration with St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, and the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, Campion Hall, Oxford.

During the launch event in March, Emma Gardner, Head of Environment for the Diocese of Salford and project lead, presented the three reports available for participants to take home in print, with a further report previously published online and another nearing completion. Each of the five reports deals with a separate element of the diocesan response to the ecological crisis.

Extensive evidence was gathered over the life of the project including approximately 1,500 survey responses, 60 in depth individual interviews, 15 exploratory focus groups, 5 expert focus groups, and two years of participant observation by the team.

The first two reports, presented by Dr. Roland Daw at St Mary’s University, look at decarbonisation strategy for diocesan buildings and carbon accounting (foot printing). Opening the event, COO of Salford Diocese Pauline Morgan noted that when the process was applied to the Diocese of Salford it was estimated that the roughly 1,000 buildings in the diocese’s building stock emit 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. If that is typical of dioceses in the UK, this multiples up to around 1,000,000 tons.

The second two reports, presented by Ruth Walbank, Laudato Si’ Research Associate at St Mary’s University, look at strategies to respond to the ecological crisis through Catholic education, and offer a template approach to delivering teaching and learning around Catholic responses to the crisis in secondary schools. Philip Booth, Director of Catholic Mission at St Mary’s University and Director of Research and Policy at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, expressed that, in addition to the technical guidance the project has produced, they “really value the other pillars such as the support for ‘Laudato Si’ Champions’ in local schools.”

From left to right: Roland Daw (St Mary’s), Jenny Williamson (ChurchMarketplace), Emma Gardner (Salford Diocese), Bishop John Arnold (Salford Diocese), Pauline Morgan (Salford Diocese), Edward de Quay (LSRI).

From left to right: Roland Daw (St Mary’s), Jenny Williamson (ChurchMarketplace), Emma Gardner (Salford Diocese), Bishop John Arnold (Salford Diocese), Pauline Morgan (Salford Diocese), Edward de Quay (LSRI).

The fifth report in the series, presented by Jakub Kowalewski at St Mary’s University, investigates the experiences, beliefs and behaviours of Catholic parishioners in their own responses to the ecological crisis. A large amount of data was collected through surveys, expert roundtables, and also in collaboration with the Journey to 2030. Deanery workshops were organised in Salford Diocese using the ‘Let us Dream’ and ‘Building a Caring Community’ activities to discuss hopes and challenges.[1] The report showed some worrying attitudes towards the ecological crisis from Catholic parishioners, but was able to frame solutions helpfully under the process of ‘ecological conversion.’ In his remarks, Bishop John Arnold repeated his feeling that we are jogging along, showing interest in climate change, “but jogging Is no longer enough, we have to start sprinting.[2]

Previously published, the theological foundations for diocesan decarbonisation were laid out in a paper[3] by the Laudato Si’ Research Institute as part of the project. Celia Deane Drummond, Director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, said that they have been “delighted to be collaborating in this project through the support of Edward de Quay and in contributing to this section of the project, recognising that the theological, ethical and moral dimensions of the socio-ecological crisis are crucial aspects in bringing about lasting socio-ecological conversion’

Closing the presentations, Philip Booth, thanked the project team for their contributions, and reiterated a point made in the recent ‘Call of Creation[4] document about how the Church must play its part in reducing carbon emissions and promoting the natural environment. “We cannot expect others to act in this field if the Church herself is not. There is nothing worse than hypocrisy when it comes to changing culture.”

Since starting the project in collaboration with the 22 dioceses in England and Wales, seven dioceses have announced carbon reduction targets, and 14 have implemented environmental policies. In addition to the work published through the project, it has also made other funding applications possible for work including interfaith adoption of community energy projects, and has shared shared further guidance from the Diocese of Salford on ‘Environment Stewardship in Places of Worship’, which you can read below.


Guardians of Creation – The Five Reports

‘Environmental Stewardship in Places of Worship: a guide to reducing our carbon footprint’