Author Archives: Charity Manager

Open event encouraging views on Just Transition for housing

Just Transition Commission and Church groups team up to plan a socially inclusive path to net-zero for Scotland’s housing

Scotland’s Just Transition Commission, established to make recommendations to ministers on how Scotland can transition to a net-zero economy by 2045 in a way that is fair for all, has teamed up with the Methodist Church in Scotland and Eco-Congregation Scotland to host an online event on Saturday 17 October 2020, from 10am until 12.30pm.

Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets will require the housing sector to radically transform itself at a pace previously unseen. Making homes more energy efficient and heated from low carbon sources presents an opportunity to improve the quality of our housing stock, tackle fuel poverty and create jobs. Concerns have also been raised about how this is paid for, and whether the shift to net-zero in the housing sector could risk sliding more households into fuel poverty.

We have to find ways of meeting our climate targets which make lives better not worse for the least well off in our society.

Attendees to the open online discussion will hear speakers from the Just Transition Commission, Warmworks, Scottish Federation of Housing AssociationsExisting Homes Alliance Scotland and Power Circle who will share their thoughts on how we can combine meeting our climate targets with improving energy affordability and lowering fuel poverty. Discussion will then open up to all participants, able to contribute their own ideas on how Scotland can reach net-zero emissions in housing.

Just Transition Commissioner, Norrie Kerr says: “We need to put an end to fuel poverty with bold action to make people’s homes warmer and cheaper to heat. Equity considerations must be central to climate action, if we are to make the transition to net-zero in a way that improves the lives of the most vulnerable. This event will provide an opportunity to hear from experts and ordinary people on these issues and contribute ideas on how Scotland can achieve this.”

Rev Mark Slaney, Chair of the Methodist Church in Scotland, who will be chairing the event, said: “We have to find ways of meeting our climate targets which make lives better not worse for the least well off in our society. I look forward to an imaginative and stimulating discussion which will contribute both to the work of the Commission and to Scotland’s preparation for the COP26 climate summit next year.”

There is still time to register for this free event, pre-registration is highly recommended. Further information and registration can be found here: 

This event has been arranged by Stirling Methodist Church and Eco-Congregation Scotland, in collaboration with the Just Transition Commission.

Presentations will focus on the key challenge: how do we combine meeting our climate targets with improving energy affordability and lowering fuel poverty?

Speakers:

Adrian Shaw, Church of Scotland climate change officer, will also outline how churches can meet the opportunities and challenges presented by Glasgow hosting the COP26 United Nations climate talks being held in November 2021.

Eco-Congregation Scotland will be encouraging all Scottish churches to become more focused on addressing the climate crisis over the coming year. Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical environmental charity supporting over 500 local churches of all denominations across Scotland, committed to environmental activities in their life and mission, with Stirling Methodist Church one of the most active eco-congregations.

Church of Scotland sets 2030 net zero target

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Christian environmental and development groups welcome General Assembly decision

Christian environmental and development charities Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah joyfully welcome the decision of the Church of Scotland to set a 2030 net zero target.

At the Church of Scotland 2020 General Assembly on Saturday, the Church’s Faith Impact Forum brought a proposal to the General Assembly ‘for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030’.

General Assembly Commissioners voted to support an amendment from Rev Jenny Adams, Minister of Duffus, Spynie and Hopeman Parish Church.

The amended motion passed by General Assembly reads: ‘Instruct the Faith Impact Forum to work with others to develop a strategy for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, reporting an outline strategy to General Assembly 2021.’

We are delighted that one of our key partner Churches has committed to transitioning to net zero in the next 10 years.

              Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland

The decision to set a 2030 net zero target is especially significant as Glasgow prepares to host the UN climate talks, COP26, in November 2021.

In her speech to the General Assembly, Rev Jenny Adams said: ‘This is a climate emergency and the next 10 years are crucial. I hope that by working with others within and beyond the Church, we will be able to get going on this difficult but vital transition, for the sake of all creation.’

Commissioners at the General Assembly also voted in favour of a motion on fossil fuel divestment proposed by Seonaid Knox. This motion called on the Church’s Faith Impact Forum to ‘report to the 2021 General Assembly on the ethical, scientific and theological arguments for and against urgent disinvestment from oil and gas companies’.

The Church of England voted to set a 2030 net zero target earlier this year. Many local authorities have also made this pledge, including the City Councils of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah applauded the decision to set a 2030 net zero target. They said that the Church of Scotland now needs to end its investments in fossil fuel companies in order to demonstrate climate leadership ahead of the crucial COP26 climate summit.

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: ‘The communities with which Christian Aid works, in many of the poorest parts of the world, are calling for urgent leadership on climate change, and this decision from the Church of Scotland demonstrates that leadership. We welcome it warmly, and look forward to working in partnership with the Church of Scotland to help realise these ambitious new goals. One of the steps that the Church could take in the short-term is to commit to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, and we hope that is part of the plans brought forward in 2021.’

Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland, said: ‘We are delighted that one of our key partner Churches has committed to transitioning to net zero in the next 10 years.’

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘It is wonderful news that the Church of Scotland has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. In order to demonstrate leadership on the climate crisis ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow next year, it is vital that the Church of Scotland supports a just and green recovery from Covid-19 by divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in the clean technologies of the future.’

Notes:

1. Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis. It works with all Christian denominations. http://operationnoah.org/

2. Christian Aid holds a vision of a better world, free from poverty and climate change. For over ten years, Christian Aid Scotland has been campaigning for the UK and Scottish Governments to take climate change seriously for the benefit of those who are impacted first and worst by its effects. https://www.christianaid.org.uk/

3. Eco-Congregation Scotland is a movement of Scottish church congregations, of all denominations and none, committed to addressing environmental issues through their life and mission. https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/

4. The Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council recommended that the Investors’ Trust divest from fossil fuels ‘as a matter of urgency’ in December 2019. https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18122752.renewed-call-kirk-sell-shares-oil-gas/

5. The Church of England set a 2030 net zero carbon target in February 2020. https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/general-synod-sets-2030-net-zero-carbon-target

CoP26 postponed

 

 

 

 

 

Glasgow's SECC and Hydro campus will host CoP26

As a consequence of the Covid 19 pandemic, the CoP Bureau of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the UK and Italian governments have agreed to postpone the CoP26 climate change conference, due to have been held in Glasgow in November 2020.

Responding to the news, Eco-Congregation Scotland chair Mary Sweetland said: 

"We understand absolutely the need to postpone the climate conference in the face of a dire emergency but strongly support the conference being held in Glasgow as soon as is possible in 2021." 

"Churches and other faith groups around the world have responded to the immediate crisis with practical action, compassion and love. We must build on this to ensure that after the pandemic we work to build a country and a world where we care for each other and for creation. The UN climate conference is a critical part of that response." 

"Eco-Congregation Scotland will continue to work positively with churches and other faith groups across Scotland and around the world to make the climate conference in Glasgow a success in 2021." 

Eco-Congregation Scotland is already linking regularly with local and national partners, to encourage hospitality with a warm welcome for visitors attending CoP26 and a legacy of transformational change to tackle the climate emergency at home and around the world.

Key partners include: Glasgow Churches Together, Church of Scotland and the Presbytery of Glasgow, Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scottish Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway, United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland, Methodist Church, Baptist Union of Scotland, The Salvation Army; Christian Aid Scotland, SCIAF, Tearfund Scotland, Justice and Peace Scotland, The Iona Community; Interfaith Scotland, Interfaith Glasgow, Edinburgh Interfaith Association, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Action of Churches Together in Scotland.

Please get in touch to join our work towards making CoP26 a success in Glasgow.

 

 

 

We’re supporting WWF’s Earth Hour

#EarthHourScotland

Saturday 28th March 2020, 8.30pm-9.30pm

In challenging times for everyone across Scotland during the coronavirus situation, it’s even more important to encourage activities that we can all take part in while we “stay at home”.

This year we’re again supporting the wonderful work of WWF Scotland and encouraging all our volunteers to take part in #EarthHour, the world’s biggest switch off event!

Learn more about Earth Hour and find out how to take part here, with great ideas and tips.

Below is a short meditation written by Rev Elizabeth Houston, retired former minister at Alexandria Parish Church, to use when you switch off lights for the planet. Alexandria recently became our latest Eco-Congregation Gold Award winners, following their union with Jamestown to become Lomond Parish Church.

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Lord, Your greatness is seen in all the world!
Your praise reaches up to the heavens; it is sung by children and babies.
You are safe and secure from all Your enemies; You stop anyone who opposes You.
When I look at the sky which You have made, and the moon and the stars which You set in their places – what is man that You think of him; mere man that You care for him?
You made him inferior only to Yourself; You crowned him with glory and honour.
You appointed him ruler over everything You made; You placed him over all creation: sheep and cattle and the wild animals too; the birds and the fish and the creatures in the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, Your greatness is seen in all the world!

Prayer

Almighty God, all-powerful and everlasting, we come before You in awe and yet with fear; for You have trusted us to care for this world which You have made, this world which You saw was good; You laid upon us, the responsibility for all the creatures of the earth, including our brothers and sisters across the globe – and, to our shame, we have allowed self-interest and greed to rule our hearts and threaten all creation.
Father God, forgive us.
Lord God, as we all feel the effects of this ‘coronavirus’, remind us of our responsibility to each other, to all the creatures in this world and, most of all, to You. Lift us from the darkness and remind us that The Light of the World will shine on through any darkness that humanity can devise and lead us, in Your mercy through this time of challenge for the whole earth and back into the safety and security of Your Light.
Father God, uphold us.
Remind us, Lord God, that our Lord Christ promised His disciples that He would be with His people, ‘until the end of the age’ and fill us with the spirit of peace and humility, inspire our prayers for one another and for all creation and as we walk again into the Light, Your Light, make us wiser and more responsible for the whole world’s sake and in Jesus’ Name.
Lord, hear us, help us and heal us, for Your love’s sake.
AMEN

Climate action

READ JOB chapter 38 and consider the theme for this year’s Earth Hour:
eliminating the use of single-use plastics; preserving biodiversity; the need for immediate climate action.
THINK on how you can help to make things better and live up to God’s challenge of caring for creation.
PRAY for the people you love and for this earth.
PLANT seeds to grow salads and flowers to colour your life.
LISTEN to the birdsong as nature gets on with doing what God made it to do.
PLACE a candle in your window (don’t leave it unattended) and help scatter the darkness.

Book of Job chapter 8

Bildad
Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
“How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind.
Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty,
if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state.
Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. “Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.
10 Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
11 Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water?
12 While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass.
13 Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.
14 What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web.
15 They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold.
16 They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine, spreading its shoots over the garden;
17 it entwines its roots around a pile of rocks and looks for a place among the stones.
18 But when it is torn from its spot, that place disowns it and says, ‘I never saw you.’
19 Surely its life withers away, and from the soil other plants grow. 20 “Surely God does not reject one who is blameless or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Your enemies will be clothed in shame, and the tents of the wicked will be no more.”
New International Version (NIV)

Pray

In the beginning – GOD; in the darkness – GOD; in Gethsemane – GOD; through the living – GOD; in our weakness – GOD; through our hopelessness – GOD; at the endings – GOD.
‘Till the dawn breaks’ – GOD.
Glory be to the Father, to the Son and the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, worlds without end.
AMEN

Good Money Week 2019

Statement from Selkirk Parish Church for Good Money Week 2019

Eco-Congregation Scotland supported the Good Money Week event organised by the Church of Scotland on Saturday 5th October 2019 and provided this statement as a divestment example for local churches to consider.

Selkirk Parish Church is a typical small town parish church, with around 400 members, and 60-70 regular attenders at Sunday services.  For a number of years, members of the congregation have become increasingly concerned about the damage being done to the environment and, in particular, the growing threat of runaway climate change.

The congregation registered as an eco-congregation back in 2013, and achieved its first eco-award in 2015.  Care for creation has become an integral part of the congregation’s life, impacting its spiritual life through worship and study groups, and showing itself in practical actions to reduce environmental impact, at both individual and congregational level.

In early 2018, a congregational 1/2 day conference was arranged by the eco-group, with most office bearers and many of the congregation in attendance.  The title of the conference was “Caring for Creation – asking the difficult questions”, and through presentations and interactive group activities, many issues were addressed.  These included considering the environmental impact of our financial decisions (what we buy, where we bank, and our investments). 

One outcome of this discussion was to consider whether the congregation’s investments were compatible with our environmental policy.  We ascertained that we had around £14K invested in the Church of Scotland’s Growth Fund, and became aware that this fund held investments on our behalf in three major oil and gas companies, Shell, BP and Total.  This was discussed by the Congregational Board and the Kirk Session, who resolved to withdraw the invested funds.

The following letter was sent to the Church of Scotland’s Investors Trust on 21st June 2018:

Dear Sirs,

In the light of our concerns about climate change driven by the continued burning of fossil fuels, most recently highlighted by Pope Francis in his meeting with oil executives, and the failure of the Church of Scotland’s policy of engagement to bring about significant change in the policies and practices of Shell, BP and Total over the last 2 years, Selkirk Parish Church has decided to withdraw its funds invested in the Church of Scotland Growth Fund.

As an eco-congregation, we do not believe it is ethically acceptable to invest in, and gain profit from, companies whose main aim is to continue to explore for, and to extract, fossil fuels.  For example, BP states on its website that its strategy is to “invest in more gas and oil, producing both with increasing efficiency”. In fact, we believe that these investments are contrary to the Investors Trust’s current policy not to invest in companies whose “activities … are felt to harm society more than they benefit it”.  The activities of Shell, BP and Total (and other similar companies) are driving the whole world towards dangerous and potentially uncontrollable climate change, already causing harm to people across many parts of the planet.

We disagree with the Church of Scotland’s policy to continue to “engage” with these companies as being impractical and ineffective.  Many large institutions, including cities, universities, some pension funds, the British Medical Association, the Church of Ireland and the United Reformed Church in Scotland have already agreed to fully divest from all fossil fuel exploration and extraction.  We believe that the Church of Scotland should be leading the way for others, and should fully divest now from all companies involved in fossil fuel exploration and extraction; this would give a stronger signal to these companies than any engagement is ever likely to do.

Within Selkirk Parish Church, we are committed to caring for God’s creation.  We can no longer wait for the Church or Scotland to act in this matter, so we are taking our own small steps to make ourselves “fossil free”.  Withdrawing our funds is one step in this journey that we are able to make now, and therefore we are doing so.  We hope that other congregations may follow our example.

The funds withdrawn may be either reinvested in an ethical fund or used to part-fund a children and families worker; we consider this to be a much better way to invest for growth in God’s Kingdom.

This was a small, but significant practical action that we could readily take. Other congregations may lack the confidence to take this step, and so it is important that we continue to campaign for total disinvestment by the Church of Scotland from all fossil fuel companies, and reinvestment into other areas that are compatible with the church’s care for creation.

Selkirk Parish Church still has other investments held by the Church of Scotland in its “consolidated fabric fund”, but we have no information about whether this fund includes fossil fuel investments. As we are not able to withdraw these funds, we hope that the 2020 General Assembly will resolve to divest completely from fossil fuels across all its investments.

David Bethune

Elder, Selkirk Parish Church

Evidence submitted to MSPs on new Climate Change Bill

THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND LAND REFORM COMMITTEE

Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the committee on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets)(Scotland) Bill in advance of appearing on 6 November 2018.

Who are we?

Eco-Congregation Scotland is a Christian environmental organisation that helps local church congregations address environmental issues through their life and mission. There are over 430 eco-congregations in Scotland. 139 of them have the EcoCongregation Award for environmental excellence. 

Our programme has three strands:

• Spiritual living: Making the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith

• Practical living: Taking practical action in the church and in the home to reduce our environmental impact

• Global living: Influencing attitudes and taking action in the local or global community on issues like climate change

Encouragement and peer support is provided through 20 local networks across Scotland with two network co-ordinators promoting local activity. 

Action on climate change 

As a faith driven organisation we encourage congregations to consider in prayer and worship why care for creation is an essential part of Christian faith; and how they should respond to climate change.  Creation Time is a new fixture in the church calendar each September and has been widely taken up in Scotland as elsewhere in Europe as an opportunity to explore care for creation in worship.

Practical action to reduce carbon emissions in churches includes working with the Energy Saving Trust and its delivery partners to encourage churches to take advice on energy management in church buildings and in their own homes. Church buildings are notoriously difficult to heat and a project in Cowal churches in Argyll identified air source heat pumps as the most effective low carbon heating for remote churches off the gas grid.   The project recently won a Roman Juriga award from the European Christian Environment Network as a leading example of energy management in churches across Europe. 

ECS receives funding from the Scottish Government to promote awareness and behaviour change.  This has helped deliver a range of activities including carbon conversations with church groups around Scotland.  There are signs of significant behaviour change with minsters and other church members installing low carbon heating at home, driving electric cars and promoting community food and other low carbon projects. Many other churches have taken advantage of Climate Challenge Funds and other grants to promote low carbon projects in church buildings of benefit to the wider community. 

Activism includes encouragement to church members to get involved in campaigning activity with partners such as Christian Aid, SCIAF, TearFund, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) and others. It is noticeable that, at lobbies of parliament and other SCCS events, church members are prominently represented.

What motivates action?

One of the principal drivers of climate action in churches is the impact of stories from partner churches around the world.  Messages from church members in Tuvalu or Malawi or Bangladesh about the loss and damage consequent on climate change have a big impact on church audiences in Scotland, probably more so than scientific reports or statistics.  It is worth considering how such stories could be shared more widely across Scotland to increase awareness and promote behaviour change.

What next? 

That over 400 churches have registered with ECS is indicative of the commitment and concern in churches. In worship and advocacy many churches are actively engaged but there remains concern that members of congregations will struggle with behavioural decisions necessary to achieve the target of a zero carbon emissions Scotland by 2050, whether that is in changes to domestic heating, food, other shopping or travel.

One opportunity of increasing interest is in decarbonising finance.  We know that many church members have concerns about investment in fossil fuel companies but the debate is beginning to spread to the role of savings, investments and pensions. Promoting awareness, campaigning and action on fossil fuel finance is likely to be a priority for coming years. 

Commitment 

ECS and sponsoring denominations are committed to supporting the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government make the rapid transition to a low carbon economy.  We have joined other SCCS members in calling for a net zero carbon emissions (100%) target in the Bill and offer our commitment to support the Scottish Government and others in helping bring about this outcome.

 

Oil companies urged to tackle climate change

 

Eco-Congregation Scotland has joined the Church of Scotland and Christian Aid Scotland in sending an open letter to the chairmen of three oil companies, asking them to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

As the Church of Scotland currently invests in BP, Shell and Total, the letter calls on action from each of those companies to keep global warming as far below 2°C as possible.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that urgent changes are necessary to achieve climate targets and avoid the dangers of drought, extreme heat, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Mary Sweetland, chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland said: "We need to drastically reduce our use of carbon fuels as the recent IPCC report shows. Big oil companies promised to clean up their act to meet the Paris commitments; now we need to know how quickly they are changing."

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council stated: "Oil companies have a critical role in deciding whether or not global warming stays within targets set by the Paris Agreement of 2015. That agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5°C if possible and at most 2°C. I am now writing to ask them to tell us if they are committed to limit global warming and if so what are they going to do?"

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland commented: "Right now, climate change is eroding life for the most vulnerable in our world and robbing our children of a future. Right now is the only time we have and time is running out. Christian Aid Scotland stands together with the Church of Scotland and Eco-Congregation Scotland in asking oil and gas companies to be leaders and solution-makers, moving intentionally and quickly to a fossil-free future."

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, one of the principal causes of global warming. The Paris Agreement urges a transition toward low carbon energy sources.

Commissioners at the Church of Scotland’s 2018 General Assembly voiced serious concerns about climate change and instructed the Church and Society Council to open discussions with the oil companies and press them to align their business plans with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Read the joint open letter.