Net-Zero and the Catholic Church: ‘Guardians of Creation’ releases guidance

Net-Zero and the Catholic Church: ‘Guardians of Creation’ project releases guidance

New guidance on helping the Catholic Church in England and Wales on its journey to net-zero has been released after being piloted by the Diocese of Salford.

The document, entitled “Guidance on Catholic Diocesan Carbon Accounting”, is the second in a series of planned documents from the Guardians of Creation project, and has been developed to offer Catholic dioceses a step-by-step guide to calculating and reducing carbon emissions.

The methodology is intended to work across all dioceses but offers particularly detailed guidance for dioceses based in the UK.

It aims to support dioceses in understanding more about their existing carbon footprint whilst providing advice on setting new, net-zero targets, and how to measure their progress.

Having already piloted the process, we have discovered that our diocese is responsible for emitting the equivalent of 15 hot air balloons of carbon dioxide a day across our churches, schools, religious orders, and associated offices and properties.

In response, we have developed a decarbonisation pathway, identified prioritised actions, and have begun work on reducing our carbon emissions as we work towards our net-zero goal.

Bishop John Arnold of Salford, and lead Bishop on the Environment at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “It is encouraging that as COP26 continues we can show that we are taking the challenge of reducing our carbon footprint seriously with the release of this guidance.

“We know that the situation is urgent, and that we all have a responsibility to reduce the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable. I’m pleased that this is one of many initiatives being taken forward by the Catholic Church in this area, and I certainly feel like we are making some progress.”

The Guardians of Creation research project is being developed by the Diocese of Salford, in collaboration with St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and the Laudato Si’ Research Institute in Oxford.

Emma Gardner, Head of Environment for the Diocese of Salford and lead on the Guardians of Creation Project, said: “Over the last year we have been working closely with Inter Diocesan Fuel Management and the Tyndall Centre at The University of Manchester to understand what emissions a diocese should be reporting on, and by how much and how quickly we can reduce our carbon footprint.

“Having been through the process ourselves we hope this guidance will make the experience much more straightforward for other dioceses at this critical time.”

The release of this guidance coincides with the historic COP26 summit in Glasgow and repeated calls from Pope Francis to care for our common home.

On 4 October, Pope Francis joined with almost 40 other faith leaders to present a joint appeal to the president-designate of the summit, Alok Sharma, which called on the international community to raise their ambitions ahead of COP26.

In the appeal, signatories including Pope Francis also committed themselves to increasing their efforts by support actions to reduce carbon emissions, and making bold plans to achieve full sustainability in our buildings, land, vehicles, and other properties.

The appeal said: “Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this previous opportunity.

“We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children.”