Net Zero Carbon

The Church of England has set itself the target of achieving net zero carbon (NZC) by 2030. At the moment, this mainly applies to energy use by church buildings (churches and church halls), parsonages and reimbursable travel. Other buildings, including diocesan offices* and church schools*, and church land are expected come into scope during 2023. The overall aim is for all fossil fuel use to be phased out by 2030 as far as is practicable, and then (2030) to offset any remaining carbon footprint (ideally 10% or less) with approved, validated offsets.

(* Sodor and Man Diocese has no separate DIocesan Office and our only school is housed in a building not owned by the Diocese so it is out of scope for the moment).

Diocesan Synod approved our Net Zero Carbon Action Plan in November 2023.

The Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030 document on the Church of England website is quite long but explains all there is to know about this initiative, from the why to the how. It includes milestones to help drive progress along the way to NZC. There are now ‘stakeholder packs’ which are excerpts relevant to specific contexts. The one for Churches is here.

The best place to start is with a guide called A Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon For Our Churches. This explains a stepwise approach, beginning with minimising energy use by: thorough building maintenance; reviewing use of buildings; considering using smaller spaces rather than the main church building where possible; heating the people rather than the entire building; electrifying heating systems.

The first and most crucial action though is for every church to complete the Energy Footprint Tool each year. This is found on the Parish Returns website of the CofE and. Is how we will keep track of our progress towards net zero carbon.

Home The carbon footprint of an average family home (for all activities) is said to be about 10 Tonnes of CO2 (equivalent). Reducing our home carbon footprints can be achieved through reducing energy use and replacing fossil fuel use with greener energy sources as well as changing our shopping and travel habits. For example, if you have a gas combi boiler and don’t need the house to be really hot, then here is a video on when and How to lower your flow temperature and save money.

Church carbon footprints on the Isle of Man due to energy use range from zero (a few remote churches have no heating or lighting) to around 5 Tonnes CO2e for small churches with just weekly services and up to 36.5 Tonnes CO2e for a large and busy Douglas church.

The Routemap advises: ‘Emissions are higher in larger, busier churches and this is where the focus of action must be. Smaller, less busy churches should focus primarily on good maintenance and easy wins‘… ‘The 20% churches with the highest energy use produce 50% of emissions.’

However, on the Isle of Man in 2021 the range of energy use is narrower, apart from the one outlier mentioned above. We have 37 churches listed on the Energy Footprint Tool sheet. In 2021 the 7 churches (ie 20%) with the highest energy use only produced 42% of our Diocesan churches carbon footprint. So the argument for focusing on the 20% highest energy users is perhaps less compelling.

The emission data for churches in 2021 is here.

One point worth highlighting: Some churches are kept on a low heat to achieve a ‘base temperature’ but this is NOT recommended for most churches. If interiors are of historic, architectural or artistic interest, then seek professional and DAC advice about heating.

The Building and GroundsRead more

Heating and LightingRead more

Carbon Footprints… The Diocesan energy carbon footprint is the sum of all the buildings owned and used by the Diocese including churches and church halls, except where a tenant is responsible for the energy use, for example where a hall is let. Unusually, the Diocese does not have a formal Diocesan Office in a separate building. Office functions are distributed to the home of the Bishop, the Archdeacon and elsewhere. So there is no Diocesan Office entry on the Carbon Footprint Table. Similarly there is no church school entry, because our church school, St Thomas’, is located in a building owned and run by the Government. The footprint size is dependent largely on the size of the building and how much it is used as well of course on what type of heating it has. We will publish the footprints here in a Carbon Footprint Table to show how each building is progressing towards carbon net zero by 2030. Our 2020 data was mostly estimated so 2021 may have to be our baseline data. The key action for each building is a comparison with itself in previous years. Each building’s situation is unique and cannot be directly compared to any other.

Community carbon footprint size can be lowered by individual, group and government action. Our ‘We Care’ campaign (see menu above) aims to encourage government to more rapid action following its adoption of the Climate Change Plan.

These Church of England webinars on getting to Net Zero Carbon may be useful to you and your church community.