Churches commitments on climate change presented to No.10

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On Monday 18 October at 10:00am, leaders representing the five main faith groups from across the UK, including Bishop Olivia the Anglican Bishop of Reading, met at 10 Downing Street to demand bold and ambitious action on the climate crisis from Government, which is hosting the UN COP26 summit in two weeks. Bishop Olivia, representing the Climate Sunday coalition, was among the multi-faith leaders in attendance, and presented Government with a list of thousands of churches calling for government to act now.

This interfaith presentation is a key milestone of practical action by faith groups that comes at a critical time for the climate, ahead of the UN COP26 climate negotiations in November. Handing in the Climate Sunday list, which comprises of thousands of churches from 30 denominations and charities – representing the biggest ecumenical Christian movement for climate justice in the UK, is increasing pressure through their collective call on the UK government to be bold and ambitious at COP26.

Over the past year, the Climate Sunday initiative has been asking churches to act, pray and speak up on climate change. At their Climate Sunday service, congregations have been encouraged to make a commitment to ongoing action to address climate change in their own place of worship and community, and to use their voice to tell politicians that we want post-Covid recovery plans, and the decisions coming from COP26 to lead to cleaner, greener, fairer future in the UK and beyond. They were also encouraged to get involved with a church ‘greening scheme’, such as A Rocha UK’s Eco Church, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s Live Simply or Eco Congregation in Scotland and Ireland.

The Climate Sunday movement has involved those from many diverse church traditions. Churches are calling on the Government, in their role as chair of COP26, to be much more ambitious in seeking faster and deeper global emissions cuts and the delivery of long-promised finance to help poorer countries adapt to the climate disruption.

Many of those involved in Climate Sunday are ‘speaking up’ for the first time, and since the start of the ‘Climate Sunday’ coalition, 2,128 church congregations have joined the list, including clergy, Christian charities and young people. Thousands more, including other faith groups, have joined in signing the ‘Time is Now’ declaration, which calls on the UK government to go further faster on climate action before hosting the COP26.

The Bishop of Reading, The Rt Revd Bishop Olivia Graham, said: “I am proud and delighted to be standing shoulder to shoulder with other faith leaders today as we represent the millions who belong to faith communities to urge our government to put aside short-term political considerations and act on planetary warming, which is the key issue of this decade. There must be nothing half-hearted about our government’s leadership of the COP26. Lives and livelihoods are already being lost across the globe due to the climate crisis. The survival of future generations is at stake. We all have a global moral responsibility, and today we urge our government to act with confidence and conviction. They have our prayers and our support.”

Andy Atkins, Chair of the Climate Sunday coalition, and CEO of Christian nature conservation charity A Rocha UK said: ‘It’s hugely encouraging to see so many churches making their own practical commitments on climate change – surely one of the biggest moral issues of our generation. Clearly every section of society needs to contribute to heading off climate catastrophe including urging governments to use their greater powers and resources to maximum effect. There are still 2 weeks before COP26 and we hope and we know many more churches will be holding a service, committing to action and speaking up in that time.


For images and interviews with spokespeople please contact: Tamsin Morris, Press Officer, Climate Sunday Coalition on 020 857 45935 ext: 2006 or 07931 961557 or email: tamsin.morris@arocha.org

Notes to Editors:

Spokespeople available for comment in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland include:

Bishop Olivia, Bishop of Reading, the Diocese of Oxford’s first female bishop

  • Andy Atkins, Chair of Climate Sunday and CEO of A Rocha UK
  • Stephen Curran, Manager of Eco Congregation Scotland, Steering Committee for Climate Sunday
  • Reverend Judith Morris, General Secretary of Baptist Union of Wales
  • Reverend Andrew Orr, Church of Ireland representative and chair of Eco-Congregation Ireland
  • Shermara Fletcher, Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic & Multi-cultural Relations, Churches Together in England
  1. Climate Sunday initiative, organised by the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)’s Environmental Issues Network (EIN), is the UK’s largest joint project planned by UK Churches on Climate Change. The vision for Climate Sunday is to leave a lasting legacy of thousands of churches better equipped to address this critical issue as part of their discipleship and mission and to make a significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at COP26.Climate Sunday has formal backing from CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, The Salvation Army, A Rocha UK, Operation Noah, Climate Stewards, Eco-Congregation Scotland, Eco-Congregation Ireland, Green Christian, the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union of Wales, the United Reformed Church, The Church of Scotland, Churches together in Wales, the Union of Welsh Independents, The Church in Wales, World Vision, The John Ray Initiative, USPG, The United Reformed Church, The Salvation Army, Joint Public Issues Team, CTBI, Christian Concern for One World, Church of Ireland, Young Christian Climate Network, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Churches can still register a Climate Sunday service and find resources at www.climatesunday.org
  2. Church Greening Schemes The ‘Greening schemes’ are award based programmes which equip churches to take action on the environment, in their church and local community. They are encouraged to do this through worship and teaching, reducing carbon emissions, land and individual lifestyles, and to speak up on the climate. There are three principal independent schemes in the UK to help grass roots churches tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and other pressing environmental issues. They work closely together. 9,248 UK churches are now registered with one or other scheme.Eco Church, run by A Rocha UK, for churches in England and Wales – https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
    Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical environmental charity supporting local churches throughout Scotland to care and act for God’s creation, reducing their impact on climate change and living sustainably – https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org
    Eco-Congregation Ireland is a project of the Church in Society Forum, a standing committee of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, encouraging churches of all denominations across Ireland to take an eco approach – https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/
    Live Simply is the environmental award scheme of the Catholic Church in England and Wales – https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award
  3. Time is Now Declaration – organised by the Climate Coalition, of which most members of the Climate Sunday Initiative are also members. It can be signed by individuals, business and community organisations. So far, 146,570 individuals, 640 businesses/organisations, and 264 community/faith groups have signed up (147,474 in total). These figures are shown here https://thetimeisnow.uk
  4. Bishop of Reading, Bishop Olivia Bishop Olivia became the Diocese of Oxford’s first female bishop when she was consecrated in November 2019. She began her career in teaching and international development, including a period working for Oxfam in Somalia. Ordained in 1997, she has since served in the Diocese of Oxford, in Garsington, Princes Risborough, and Burnham before she became the Archdeacon of Berkshire in 2013. Bishop Olivia is passionate about social justice and the interface the Church has with the wider world. In June 2019 she accompanied other faith leaders calling for Government action on climate change and took part in a Mass Lobby of Parliament. Big priorities for Bishop Olivia are the climate crisis and the challenges facing young people. Bishop Olivia is married to Keith, and they have three grown-up children.

A message from the former Prime Minister to children and young people

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The former Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, shares a message with children in the diocese about the importance of writing to their MP about climate change.

COP26 engagement opportunities

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COP26 is the Conference of the Parties on climate change to be hosted in Glasgow from 31 Oct to 12 Nov.

As this helpful infographic explains, it is a crucial meeting for taking forward the pledges made in the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  This Tearfund blog by Dr Ruth Valerio shows why it is important for Christians.

 

But how can we get involved?

 

Advocate for climate justice

The main faith groups’ asks for COP26 are around climate finance justice. They are to:

  • Prioritise a new and additional finance mechanism for climate-related loss and damage (money to help people who are already losing homes, loved ones and livelihoods as a direct result of climate impacts).
  • Put an end to all use of public money to subsidise fossil fuels.

 

Finding out more

Download the briefing from Make COP Count for more detail.  Bishop Olivia also preached a sermon on climate finance at Reading Minster as the Young Christian Climate Network Relay passed through Reading in July.

 

Getting involved 

Tell our politicians that is vitally important they make bold commitments on action in the UK and on fair climate finance.

  • It is best to write directly to your MP see the Make Cop Count briefing or this guide from JPI.
  • A simple option is to sign The Time Is Now declaration and ask your church to sign it too.
  • Individuals can also sign the recent Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration for COP26.
  • Young people and those older can sign the Take A Stand open letter to leaders.
  • Investigate the Be The Change resources for schools and children’s groups, Be Vocal is on advocacy.
  • The COP26 Coalition are encouraging a Day of Action on Saturday 6 November There are actions planned in Reading, Oxford and other areas – check to see what is happening near you.
  • You could also join the People’s Summit being held virtually from 7 to 10 November.
  • Ring Out for COP26 – If your church has bells, you might like to arrange for them to be rung on Saturday 30 October at 6pm for half an hour. This is the eve of COP26 and the idea has been suggested to all dioceses to let the church bells be a voice for climate justice. One more way to show the leaders at COP26 the public support for making the meaningful commitments that are vital at the conference. It is listed among the CCCBR’s things to ring for.  It is important local publicity goes alongside this, so those within earshot know why they are hearing the bells on a Saturday evening!

 

Prayer is essential!

The former head of the UN talks wrote an open letter of thanks after the Paris COP, which started “For those who prayed …”  recognising the role prayer played at those talks.

If you’d like to join in prayer:

  • Tearfund will be sending daily prayer texts.
  • Pray and Fast for the Climate has material for a prayer vigil and will have a prayer guide of opportunities for prayer during the time.
  • Climate Intercessors will be providing daily prayer points.
  • You can pledge to pray with Christian Aid and their October prayer points are here.
  • COP26 has a Presidency Programme and a Green Zone calendar of events that you could use to inform your prayers.
  • On Sunday 31 October 6-8pm St John’s and St Stephen’s in Reading (RG1 3JN) will hold an in person COP26 Prayer Vigil , just as COP26 starts. It will include some led liturgy, some quiet reflection and a time to watch and pray for the world’s leaders as they gather in Glasgow. Anyone wanting to join in is welcome.
  • The United Benefice of Radley, Sunningwell and Kennington are holding a prayer evening from 7pm on Tuesday 2 November at St. Swithun’s Church, OX1 5PL.
  • Tearfund are encouraging churches to join in with their COP26 Church Service on Sunday 7 November. It will be available to download in advance and show in your church.
  • The artist Emma Major, LLM at St Nicolas Church, Earley, is leading a Caring for Creation prayer vigil on Zoom at 6pm on Sunday 14 November. Email emma@stnicolas.org.uk for info.

Church events to support on Sunday 31st October:

  • The Shelswell Benefice is holding a Climate Sunday service at 11am at St Mary and St Edburga, Stratton Audley.
  • All Saints, Wokingham is holding a walk of witness for the climate, starting at 9.15am with a silent vigil in Elms Park and then walking through the town centre to the church for the service at 10am celebrating All Saints Sunday.

 

Alongside advocacy and prayer, we can make real change happen where we are. 

Each of us can make some simple changes to reduce our own environmental footprints.  Count Us In – suggests many steps to protect what we love by highlighting actions we can do to combat change. Also  see our EcoHub Action Zone and the 10 tips there.

The carbon footprints of our homes can be reduced by adding insulation and reducing drafts, as well as more major changes. There may be limited funding available for environmental improvements to  some homes, more info here.

In our church communities we can join the Parish Pathway to Net Zero, there are two first steps: Register for A Rocha’s excellent Eco Church award scheme and fill in the survey to guide further action, also start thinking about how to decarbonise your church building, you can fill in this expression of interest form for an audit or advice.

On Monday 8th November 6pm, St Edburg’s Eco Church Group will start a new ‘Bicester Carbon Club’ where local people can empower each other to reduce their carbon footprints, starting with homes.  Register here.  If you are not in the area, perhaps your church could start something similar.

 

Opportunities to learn more…

Individually or in a small group, you might like to watch Tearfund’s excellent series of 9 short climate talks on Christianity and Climate Change by Professor Katharine Hayhoe and discuss the questions suggested.

 

The Big Church Read has resources for small groups or individuals on ‘A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues’ by Martin and Margot Hodson. The book considers a range of current environmental problems, giving the biblical basis for looking after the environment and linking this to the Christian faith.

 

Make COP Count have a calendar of different faith group events.

 

The Ethical Consumer Week programme has a wide selection of informative online talks 16-22 October.

 

The Oxford Science + Ideas Festival 9 – 26 October, has many events online or in person, search the programme with the word “climate”.

 

The Reading International Festival “Together We Can Halt Climate Change and Build a Better Future” has a variety of talks and events, online or in person 11 October – 12 November, investigate the programme.

 

St Mary’s, Burghfield has some beautiful COP26 inspired climate themed quilted panels to loan out to stimulate reflection and action.  Contact us if you’d like to borrow them and we’ll pass on your message.

Nine-day prayer relay for the environment

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Churches in Kidlington are hosting a nine-day prayer relay for the environment ahead of COP26.

New Eco Church Awards across the Diocese of Oxford

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Churches across the diocese have received new Eco Church Status awards in recent weeks as part of the A Rocha UK scheme.

Bishop Steven in the House of Lords

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The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft Prayer Duty in the House of Lords in September 2021

YCCN Relay to COP26

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YCCN Rise to the Moment logo

The Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) are organising a relay walk/pilgrimage which started at the G7 in Cornwall in June and will end in Glasgow at the end of October, ready for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26) in November. The purpose is to #RiseToTheMoment and raise awareness of the climate crisis and the urgent need for action, requiring bold commitments at COP26.

YCCN has organised the Relay to call upon the UK government to:

  1. Reinstate the foreign aid budget to pre-COVID levels;
  2. Secure agreement from rich countries to double the commitment of $100bn a year for climate finance;
  3. Develop with other governments and international organisations a new regulated climate loss and damage mechanism which not only saves lives but livelihoods;
  4. Push for the debts of the world’s poorest countries to be cancelled so they can better confront the climate crisis and other urgent priorities.

The webmap here and below shows the approximate route, which comes through the south of the diocese at the end of July, with a residency in Reading from 28-31 July on its way to London from Salisbury, then comes back through in mid-August, moving through Aylesbury, Oxford and Banbury before heading on to Birmingham. Some stops are still being confirmed so check for the latest details on the YCCN website.

YCCN Relay webmap screengrab with link

We are encouraging parishes to get involved and support this. There are many opportunities to help on the YCCN website and not just by walking – churches are needed to host walkers overnight or provide lunches as they pass, individuals are needed to be on-call support drivers in case of need or to check the routes make sense to those with local footpath knowledge. Register on their website.

Bishop Olivia, Reading Minster and other churches in Reading are involved in the Reading residency, when the relay stays from 28-31 July in Reading. Reading Minster is hosting a Climate Justice Weekend and other events are on the poster below. Join in if you can.

Reading Climate Justice Weekend Events

 

Reading Green Christians are organising an art exhibition as a chance for children and young people to tell political leaders and those in power what they want done to protect the environment and the climate. Entries from those age 6-18 are to be delivered by 20 August. Information below and more details here.

Art Call Out poster with link

 

When the route enters Oxford on Sunday 15 August ,Christ Church Cathedral will welcome the walkers. Bishop Gavin and Bishop Steven will be involved the following day as the Relay moves on from Oxford and arrives at Kidlington on Monday 16 August.

We know of some youth groups joining the walking for a day and churches hosting lunches or providing accommodation for walkers. Thank you to those for your involvement. It would be good to have a complete picture, so please email us if your church is involved.

Let’s #RiseToTheMoment and support this courageous, youth-led initiative and show that the church is deeply concerned about climate justice.

On your bike!

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Could you consider cycling?

Why not give it a go when you return to travelling more. Here are some tips and inspiration from three regular Church House Oxford (CHO) cycle commuters.

Steven Buckley, Director of Communications

How long is your commute?

I live near Reading in Berkshire, about 35 miles from the office and a couple of miles from the local train station. Prior to lockdown, I commuted daily via the train and my trusty Brompton foldable bike (which is over 16 years old). If I’m feeling fit, I cycle in from central Oxford. Otherwise, I get off at Oxford Parkway and cycle from there.

What do you gain from cycling?

The great days are when the journey by train and bike is faster than it would be by car. Oftentimes it only takes a little longer. The big thing for me is getting to work and read on the journey, rather than dead time in the car, and I’m getting my daily exercise too while doing my bit for the planet.

What’s your top cycling tip?

Just start – sticking with anything new for only a few weeks will quickly become a habit, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in your energy and happiness levels. If you’re new to cycling or unconfident, remember it’s OK to ride ‘defensively’ about a foot away from the kerb. It means you’re safe and easily seen. A common worry is arriving sweaty at work. Avoid this by wearing natural fabrics, dressing in layers, and not cycling too fast. As long as you shower before you set off you won’t be smelly, even if you do sweat. If you do want to don some Lycra and race in, then the shower facilities at CHO are fab. cycletoworkday.org has some great tips if you’d like to find out more.

Any essential equipment?

Punctures do happen from time to time, so carry a spare innertube and pump. Good lights are important too, even in the summer months.

What about bad weather?

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. I always have a rain jacket and waterproof trousers with me.

Best moment?

Cycling out of CHO and sailing past lines of traffic on a summer evening is always a special moment!

Steven's folding bicycle

Rhodri Bowen, Parish Development Adviser (Berkshire Archdeaconry)

There have been times in my life when I have commuted by bike most days. Since becoming a PDA those opportunities have been more limited, but (outside of lockdown) I cycle when my meetings are local, and I’m always using the bike to get to the post office or the shops: definitely my preferred form of transport…

What do you gain from cycling?

I love cycling, but I’m not a recreational cyclist: you’ll find no Lycra here! Ever since I was a child trapped in a rural village with limited public transport I’ve always viewed cycling as the most efficient, environmentally friendly, cost-effective way to get places – with health benefits! I like my car, but I take great pleasure in leaving it untouched. I guess it’s also turned into a bit of an unintentional challenge to keep my road bike on the road without consuming more resources. The bike itself was saved from years of disuse languishing in someone’s shed and has been repaired using reclaimed parts. I was annoyed recently at having to buy a new spoke, but since then I’ve pulled a discarded wheel out of a skip so I won’t ever have to do that again! I’ve often picked up tyres from the tip with years of use still in them – some people think they need a new set when the tread is a little bit worn like on a car: they think it improves grip (it doesn’t).

What is your top cycling tip?

You don’t need to spend any money. I haven’t ever bought any special clothes for cycling. I’ve never bought a bike, for that matter: my last two bikes were both given away by their previous owners – one through Freecycle – and if you’re a bit resourceful you can maintain them with minimum cost. I know that most people won’t want to do the repairs and maintenance themselves, and taking bikes to a repair shop is pricey. Maybe you know someone who’ll be happy to do the work for a beer! When I returned my daughter to university recently I pumped up the tyres, adjusted the brakes and oiled the chains of all the bikes that belonged to her shared house. No beers though, sadly…

Any essential equipment?

A lock. Even my rusty old rat bike will disappear at some point if I don’t lock it up. It doesn’t need to be an expensive lock unless you’re leaving it anywhere overnight or at a railway station, in which case go for a strong U lock plus a chain/cable for both wheels and, ideally, the saddle, and lock it to a post. Oh, and a set of basic LED lights, preferably rechargeable.

What about bad weather?

I get wet. But waterproof trousers are the business. A set of mudguards can make things more pleasant. I was once cycling back from a church service in a thunderstorm with a guitar on my back that was acting as an (unhelpful) sail, so I don’t recommend that. On that occasion another member of the church really kindly stopped and took my guitar home!

Advantages of cycling?

When you’re in your car you can’t just stamp on the brakes and look at a butterfly, whereas I do that sort of thing all the time when I’m on the bike, and stopping to chat is easy. I used to regularly bike across Newbury, from the logjam of the A339 on one side to the busy A4 on the other. You went from the freneticism of the road to the oasis of the canal towpath, with the opportunity to hear birdsong and greet people on the boats. For that five minutes, the pace of life just slowed, giving space for breathing and listening.

 

Rhodri on his bicycle

Tracy Makin, School Support Officer

How long is your commute?

The most direct route for me is about 10 miles from home to office, but I tend to do longer to avoid town and in summer usually make my commute home into a long training ride. Currently I am also commuting off road a lot because of the race I am training for.

What’s in it for me?

Time to clear my head.

What’s your top cycling tip?

Just get out and enjoy it.

Essential equipment?

Helmet, lights and puncture repair kit.

What about bad weather?

With the correct clothing it doesn’t matter.

Best moment?

Crossing Port Meadow on a morning with hardly anyone around and enjoying beauty and quietness.

 

Tracy with her bicycle

Bishop of Oxford appointed to Lords select committee

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The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has been appointed to the Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change.

Environment Action Internships for Spring 2021

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Four students from the University of Oxford share their experiences from internships with the diocese’s Environment Action Programme.

Make COP Count at St Edburg’s, Bicester

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Colin Cockshaw tells the environment team about the plans St Edburg’s, Bicester, has for the run up to COP26.