Diocese of Oxford declares a climate emergency and agrees action plan
A common vision for a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world means that care for the climate is front and centre for the Diocese of Oxford.
On Saturday 14 March, the Oxford Diocesan Synod gave its overwhelming support to a motion that declares a Climate Emergency and commits the Diocese to a wide-ranging plan of practical action, prayer and advocacy, including a move towards a net-zero target.
The Diocese’s new plans were formulated in conjunction with experts from the national Church and business, local charities, the academic community, and other professionals working in the areas involved. They draw on the strength of the Church – the expertise among its parishioners, the strength of church communities, links with local communities, and connections with other dioceses, the national Church and Christians worldwide.
Getting to net-zero requires reducing emissions resulting from diocesan activity and then, for any remaining emissions, withdrawing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This is a process that is necessary if the target of reducing global warming to the targets set by the Paris Agreement is to be met.
The process in the Diocese of Oxford has already begun through, for example, greening Church House Oxford, carrying out an energy audit, implementing its recommendations, and switching to a renewable energy tariff. Parishes, too, are working towards this: almost 10% of our churches have had energy audits, and the number of churches on Parish Buying’s renewable tariff has more than doubled since Autumn 2018.
But achieving net-zero across the Diocese is an altogether different order of magnitude, and the motion represents a step-change in our commitments. The plan of action will encompass clergy housing, churches and schools, reimbursed travel and some aspects of procurement. It will involve a rigorous survey to determine where resources can best be directed. While this may have significant costs, as Bishop Olivia makes clear, we can ill afford to do otherwise.
“It will be costly, but we must play our part in this.
“It is our calling and our responsibility. We face the facts and reality with gritty determination and stubborn optimism. We can do this if we choose to,” said Bishop Olivia, introducing the motion to Diocesan Synod. “We have drawn up a plan to aim for net-zero emissions as a Diocese by 2035.
“We believe that this is well thought-through, realistic and achievable. We have done it soberly, in consultation with many experts and specialists.” The 2035 target was set and scoped in response to deanery synod motions, the first of which was passed last summer. The Diocese will also be scoping out the possibility of meeting the earlier target set by General Synod of 2030.
Diocesan Synod gave its overwhelming support to the motion. The Diocese will now begin preparations to build the capacity required to facilitate the changes in practices, processes and buildings necessary to decrease its carbon footprint on the scale required.
• Find out what the Diocese is doing to care for creation.