Moving forward from the Paris climate talks

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As the world looks to reduce its carbon footprint following December’s COP21 talks in Paris, the Door reflects and asks ‘what next?’ as churchgoers consider how to become more environmentally friendly.

One person who attended the COP21 talks was Mike Clark, a member of St Paul’s Banbury. Below he describes his experience. 

I have an investment management background, but on this occasion I attended as a representative of my profession, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. I was asked to contribute to a Roundtable discussion chaired by Carbon Tracker. This organisation has done so much to make carbon investment risk a financial reality – do check out their website! The topic was carbon-related risk disclosure and financial regulation. Contributors came from around the world and represented pension funds, regulators, investment managers, market index providers and academics. We shared perspectives – climate change has so many financial aspects.

Mike Clark, a member of St Paul's, Banbury.

Mike Clark, a member of St Paul’s, Banbury.

The build-up to COP21 had been positive and, although we were in a different venue from the negotiations, this positive feeling was tangible in all the sessions I attended at the Roundtable venue. Even arriving at Gard du Nord by Eurostar, I was greeted by welcoming COP21 billboards in the station. The French managed the whole event with diplomatic aplomb and Laurent Fabius, the COP21 President, was rightly lauded for his efforts, along with Christiana Figueres who led the UN work in the years leading up to the event.

Attending in a professional capacity, it was good to make the link between the earth, where we are all called to be good stewards, and the daily world of finance that I inhabit. More widely, many commentators have picked up on the role that Christians have played in raising climate change up the political agenda.

What of the future? I’d need a page or two to answer that question properly. So let me just note that one UK pension fund, earlier this year, adopted and published their investment policy which states: “Our objective is to ensure that our Fund’s investment portfolio and processes are compatible with keeping the global average temperature increase to remain below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels”. They may be the first with such a policy, but they won’t be the last. So let us go forward in hope!It was a historic COP21, with governments sending a strong signal on climate change. The Paris Agreement will resonate down the years!

 

Pilgrimage to Paris

Jess Hall joined thousands of pilgrims as the Church of England, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund came together to organise a Pilgrimage2Paris ahead of the climate talks. 

Jess Hall, the Berkshire Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid.

Jess Hall, the Berkshire Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid.

Had I realised the impact on my feet, I would have sought out some kind of sponsorship deal with Compeed© for my two days on the Pilgrimage to Paris. But my hope for an ambitious and binding climate deal in Paris was stronger than the ache and pain of the many blisters I acquired on my journey through Surrey and Sussex.

I met up with the group of Pilgrims in Banstead, Surrey, their first destination after setting out from London that morning. Everyone was in good cheer and seemed to have taken the first leg of the journey in their stride.
It was a shock to wake up the next morning to the news of bombs and shootings in Paris, as you can imagine it cast quite a shadow over the joy and celebration of the previous day. Determined we walked on in solidarity and prayer for Paris and in hope of a world where light overcomes the darkness.

Everyone taking part in the Pilgrimage to Paris had a story to tell and as we trod the muddy paths and puddle ridden roads it was a huge privilege to hear some of them. Despite our different backgrounds, church experience and effectiveness of our waterproofs, what united us was the desire to see world leaders come to a meaningful agreement in Paris. We all wanted to see an agreement that would safeguard our planet’s future, bring liberation to the poor and a brighter future for our global community.
On our journey we shared a beautiful ecumenical communion and I was privileged to lead the intercessions. Amid our prayers for those reeling from the Paris attacks, for the world leaders at the COP 21 Climate Talks, and for strength for the journey we shared together this refrain:

We lift our eyes up to the mountains, where does our help come from?
Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

This verse from Psalm 121 seemed to so perfectly speak into both our weakest and most passionate prayers for Paris, and for our world. I had tears in my eyes a few short days later as I watched the footage of 200 world leaders hugging and cheering as they announced that a deal had been reached. An agreement to limit warming to 2°C, pursue renewable energy and provide £100 billion in climate finance for developing countries. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and we must hold our leaders to account. There is also a huge amount to be celebrated, and much to thank the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, for.

Jess Hall  is the Regional Christian Aid Co-ordinator for Berkshire. She is based in the Oxford Christian Aid office.

Become and Eco Church

Eco Church is an award scheme designed to motivate and resource churches to care for God’s earth. Launched in January, Eco Church replaces the Eco Congregation awards from the Christian environmental charity, A Rocha. To participate churches complete an online survey, indicating how they care for God’s earth in worship, teaching, buildings, and in the personal lifestyles of their members. Once they have amassed enough points they can qualify for Eco Church Awards at Bronze, Silver or Gold Level.

Dr Ruth Valerio, the Churches and Theology Director for A Rocha, says: “Caring for the whole creation should impact everything in our church lives and Eco Church is designed to equip us to do just that. We’ve been working really hard to produce this new scheme and I’m looking forward to it launching and to seeing which churches are the first to gain their awards.”

Here is the story of St James’s Church, Gerrards Cross:

The Revd Jenny Tebboth, who is now a curate in the Chalfont St. Giles, Seer Green and Jordans Benefice, was delighted to discover that St James supported A Rocha, but says it niggled her that, despite the church supporting A Rocha financially, creation care was not integrated into church life. Since then St James’s has worked hard to gain a first Eco Congregation Award. “Things are very different now,” she says: “Our recent eco-congregation work has been publicised in A Rocha News as one of the best submissions that they have received. Cindy Crump has taken over the job of A Rocha mission champion and will work with A Rocha and the St James’s ‘Love Creation’ team, who intend to work towards the next level of award.”
Cindy moved to Gerrards Cross and began worshipping at St James’s in 2013 and knew quickly it was the church for her.

And then the environmental projects caught her eye. “Sections of the church garden had tall grasses for the insects, bird and bat boxes were in the trees, and the bulletin indicated opportunities for helping with gardening at the church and walks in the area. I was hooked,” she says. I showed up at a meeting in the autumn of 2013 to talk about the church’s role in creation care. Our aim was to inspire each member of St James’s to work out what it means to care for God’s creation in their own lives, not out of fear or guilt, but to glorify God, and to take a decisive step towards making the operations of St James’s more environmentally friendly.”

Since then Dave Bookless from A Rocha has spoken at services, Life Groups have completed a study on creation care, the recycling collection in the church centre has been improved, Richard Trigg lovingly restored the bird nest boxes and the late Clifford Robinson and Cindy did a survey of the birds and butterflies in the church garden. Blogs on caring for creation have been posted and an energy audit of the church buildings has been completed.

Cindy adds: “Going forward, the ‘Love Creation’ team hopes to continue to mobilize the whole church family to play their part. We will issue ideas and tips to help them live more simply. We would like to find an experienced naturalist who can help with surveying the wildlife in the church garden. We have been looking at the church’s use of energy: we are changing the lights in the St James Centre to be more energy-efficient and brighter, and we’re looking to support A Rocha at Minet Park and other projects. We certainly want ideas from the congregation on how we can all care for God’s creation.

“We are really proud of this award. This has not been achieved by a few hard-working individuals, but by the efforts of many right across the church.”

Register your interest in Eco Church here. 

Book now for EWDC

IT is vital that the Church continues to play a role in the climate response. Experts and delegates from churches will be gathering in Coventry for the 2016 Ecumenical World Development Conference on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 April at the Central Hall. The event will be a chance to reflect on the theological and practical implications of the Paris agreement. Click here to book.

Reflections on the Reading climate day

by the Revd Liz Ratcliiffe

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The Revd Liz Ratcliffe, (right), with Ruth Valerio, is the Curate at Christ Church Reading, and organised the Reading Climate Day.

READING Climate Day in December was a great success, with people from churches, environmental groups and the wider community visiting the Minster for a series of green events. The morning kicked off with a dozen stalls – picked for their environmental and fair trade credentials – arrayed down each side of the aisle. A variety of green goodies were on display, from vegan truffles to pictures made from bits of twig and gemstones. There was something for everybody, and shoppers and stallholders alike came away happy.

In the afternoon, things took a more serious tone, with a talk on climate change, given by Met-Office scientist Professor John Mitchell. John made the complex science understandable to a varied audience, who listened avidly while enjoying beer provided by Reading’s Zero Degrees microbrewery. He stayed to participate in a very lively and good-humoured question-and-answer session afterwards.

The day ended with a specially-written Climate Mass, led by Bishop Andrew, with an inspiring sermon by one of the country’s foremost environmental theologians, Dr Ruth Valerio. Ruth left us all feeling that we had something to offer in the fight against climate change, and the congregation participated enthusiastically in a very moving act of commitment to a more environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

The whole event took place against a backdrop of environmentally-themed prayer stations and information stalls run by green Christian groups such as A Rocha and the John Ray Initiative.