Author Archives: Paul Williams

Climate Emergency and the Future of Oil and Gas: How do we respond?

A range of climate, energy and environmental concerns in 2019 has led to declarations of a ‘climate emergency’.  This raises some hard questions for the future of the oil and gas industries.  What does this mean and how should churches respond?

Campaigners old and young

David Attenborough, 93,  addressed the potentially disastrous consequences in a BBC documentary Climate Change – The Facts and Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate campaigner from Sweden has been travelling Europe with widespread publicity, addressing UK MPs when she criticised the UK Government’s response to climate change,  encouraging Extinction Rebellion protestors in London , and briefly meeting the Pope,  who asked her to continue with her campaigning. In August she travelled by yacht from Europe to New York to address the United Nations.

Strikes and protests

There have been school strikes around the world including Scotland with children protesting outside the Scottish Parliament.  Protesters from Extinction Rebellion have disrupted traffic in London,  Edinburgh and elsewhere.  The protests have included significant numbers of church activists from Christian Climate Action. The strikes continue into the autumn with actions planned for the week beginning 20 September.

The CoP comes to Glasgow in 2020!

In September it was announced that the United Nations climate conference 2020 (CoP26) will be held in Glasgow in November 2020.  Delegates from governments around the world, churches, NGOs and others numbering perhaps 30,000 will be in the city. This is an opportunity to meet representatives from the world’s churches and to showcase climate action in Scotland.  It also runs the risk of highlighting our dependence on oil and gas and our commitment to continued exploration and production in the North Sea.     

UKCCC Report

The United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change (UKCCC) published a report on 2 May 2019 Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warmingThe report sets out how the UK can end its contribution to global warming within 30 years by setting an ambitious new target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.  For Scotland the report suggests that the target date should be 2045.  The recommendations of the report were accepted quickly by the Scottish Government who announced amendments to the Climate Change Bill currently before Parliament to implement the UKCCC target date.

Climate emergency

At the SNP Conference in April 2019 the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared a climate emergency in response, she said, to meeting children who had taken part in the school climate strike.  While having no statutory force a state of emergency demands urgent action and challenges the status quo.  Following her speech critics challenged Scottish Government proposals to reduce or eliminate Air Departure Tax arguing that this offers a financial incentive to encourage flying and is inconsistent with a climate emergency.  In a remarkably rapid response the Scottish Government agreed and  scrapped the proposals

The Scottish Government Programme for Scotland 2019-20 ‘Protecting Scotland’s Future’ was published in September.  The programme gives priority to climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy.  Its breadth recognises that a range of initiatives are required to transform the economy, communities, homes and travel.

Carbon Tracker

A report in September from financial analysts Carbon Tracker Breaking the Habit  concludes that none of the large oil companies are “Paris-aligned”.  “Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5˚C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals.”  This includes the large European companies that are doing the most to reassure investors that they are responsive to climate concerns – BP, Shell, Total and Equinor.  Shockingly, the report concludes that oil and gas projects already been sanctioned will take the world past 1.5ºC, unless carbon capture and storage can be brought into action at scale and very quickly.

Concern grows about oil companies lobbying

A research report has revealed how oil companies have spent $1 billion on lobbying and publicity since the Paris agreement to ensure that their highly profitable business model is not disrupted.[1]   There has been a huge publicity campaign from BP  stressing its green credentials, a campaign that has been widely criticised as ‘greenwash’ and has been called ‘Deceptive and Hypocritical’ .  In particular a research report has highlighted that while claiming to be promoting renewables, less than 5% of BP’s capital expenditure is in renewable energy.

Total

Similarly, Total is a leader in renewables among the largest oil companies but this still represents a tiny fraction of its overall investment (less than 5%).   At the presentation of its results in February 2019 Total reported it had made $15bn of capital expenditure and achieved an 8% increase in output along with a 28% increase in earnings.  It is planning a similar level of investment in new oil and gas fields around the world in the next five years. 

[1] Big Oil’s Real Agenda on Climate Change, March 2019, How the oil majors have spent $1bn since Parison narrative capture and lobbying on climate, Influence Map, March 2019.

Norway

The Labour Party in Norway, the largest party in the Norwegian Parliament, has indicated that it will not support proposals for drilling for oil near the Lofoten islands.  This decision has caused surprise in the oil industry and among trade unions and marks a significant turning point in the debate on fossil fuel extraction.  Also in Norway the Sovereign Wealth Fund has indicated its intention to move away from fossil fuel investments.    

Finance

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has repeated his warning about the financial implications of climate change. In an open letter written with other leading central bankers on climate-related financial risks he set out steps that need to be taken in the finance sector to minimise these risks.  Also in April Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM) warned of a climate catastrophe in its Active Ownership report.  LGIM is one of the largest investors in the UK and announced it had divested from companies that it considered had made insufficient progress in addressing climate risks.  Sacha Sadan, Director of Corporate Governance at LGIM said:

The point here is that we are facing a climate catastrophe. More and more people are realising this, especially as we have seen further evidence that the effects of climate change will soon be irreversible. This will affect economies, politics and, as a result, our clients’ assets all around the world. We all need to move faster.

Just Transition

This is a campaign to promote a just transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy.  It has attracted the support of some trade unions and the Scottish Government has set up a Just Transition Commission chaired by Prof. Jim Skea.  In part this is a recognition that we have to move rapidly from an economy dependant on oil and gas but that must be done in a fair and just way. The report Sea Change published by Oil Change international in 2019 explores what this might mean for the oil and gas industry.

Questions: what are the implications for churches

An environmental emergency demands an urgent response.  

  • What does a climate emergency mean and how should we respond?
  • What is a ‘just transition’ to a low carbon economy and how do we make it happen? 
  • What does a climate emergency mean for the future of the oil and gas industry in the North Sea?
  • What does this mean for our investments in oil and gas companies both as churches and as individuals?

Adrian Shaw, Church of Scotland, 17 September 2019


Church and Community Orchards Twinning

We are looking for four churches in Scotland to take part in an orchard twinning project with churches in Hungary.  The aim is to learn from the inspiring Plant Native Fruit Trees in Church Gardens project in Hungary that has planted hundreds of orchards across the country and won the ECEN Roman Juriga Award in 2018.

We want to inspire church and community orchard planting in Scotland.  Planting fruit trees is both a symbolic and practical expression of care for Creation.  It is a recognition of the fruitfulness of Creation and a source of healthy food; an orchard requires care and nurture to thrive; and with care will enhance green spaces both for humans and wildlife, particularly in urban areas.

To do this the Church of Scotland, Reformed Church in Hungary are working together with Okogyulekezet (Eco-congregation) Hungary, Eco-Congregation Scotland, and a UK charity The Orchard Project.  The project is part funded by the European Christian Environment Network (ECEN) but churches who wish to be involved will have to make a significant commitment of time, effort and in some cases a financial contribution.

Who is eligible?

Any Eco-Congregation in Scotland may apply, however we are primarily seeking congregations in Edinburgh and Glasgow. We would like to involve priority area churches in urban areas and will seek to find match funding where necessary to enable churches with limited resources to participate.

To take part you must have access to land suitable for an orchard, be prepared to work with a Hungarian church partner, including travel and providing hospitality and make a long term commitment to look after an orchard. For more information, please request an ‘Eligibility Check’ document.

Planning, and training and will be provided by The Orchard Project, a charity with staff based in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

If you are interested please get in touch.  Although we can only provide financial support to four churches it may be possible for other churches to informally join in some of the training and events – so do get in touch.

Contact: Paul Williams

email: pwilliams@churchofscotland.org.uk, tel: 01312402277.

EVENT: The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a grown up economy by Wellbeing Economy Alliance

If the only way is up, how do we know when the economy has reached its destination? What does it mean for an economy to Arrive?

Instead of pursuing endless growth at all costs, it’s time for governments and other decision makers to prioritise shared wellbeing on a healthy planet.

In their new book “The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a growth up economy”, Dr. Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams present the exciting new concept of economic Arrival. They invite us to consider that “the agenda of fighting for survival could be over if the economy were to engage with a new challenge: that of building ourselves a lasting home in this place of plenty.”

Join the authors for a short talk on the book, followed by a Q&A and discussion about applying these ideas to contemporary Scottish politics, hosted by Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland. The discussion will be followed by a book signing and light refreshments will be available.

 

Busy time at Zero Waste workshops

These folk look busy at something!

Wonder who they are?

They are a few of the 37 individuals from 24 different eco-congregations who took part in the Zero Waste workshops, organised by Eco-congregation Scotland, in Edinburgh and Glasgow  at the end of November.  The day flew by, with a 2-hour session in the morning called Love Food Hate Waste, followed after lunch by a 2 hour session on Love Your Clothes.  Together we learned about the contribution that food waste and the clothing industry make to climate change, and some practical steps that we can all take to reduce our environmental impact.  Great fun, but deadly serious too.   The idea was that those who came along and took part can go back to their churches or networks or groups of friends and run their own informal activities and information events based on what they learned and the materials they have access to.

Wish you have been there?  Don’t worry!

You have several options.

  1. Maybe someone from your church or area was at one of the workshops?  If so, ask them if they will run a local mini-workshop to share what they found out!
  2. If not, we are planning to repeat these “cascade” workshop events:

(a) in Stirling on Saturday 2nd February

(b) in Cupar on Tuesday 5th February

(c) in Inverness on Friday 8th February.

Detailed information and booking forms will be out shortly, Hope to see you there!

When Government fails to respond to climate change, we have a duty to act

Its been a few weeks of bad-news stories in the climate action movement.

The UK Government is failing to respond to the overwhelming calls for climate action, which some are calling a failure to govern and unforgivable betrayal.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and six other MPs, including Labour’s Clive Lewis and former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron signed the letter, which says “pushing policymaking into the long grass of Brexit at this stage represents an abject failure to govern in the interests of the people you are elected to serve.” Read more here:

Others have gone further, calling the Government’s failure a breach of the social contract and cause for the climate action movement to step up a gear. Many, including figures like Rowan Williams, are calling for mass civil-disobedience in protest.  

The latest IPCC report a  says time is already running out and we need to change now to prevent drastic climate break down. Most of the world’s children are already breathing toxic air

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about taking stronger action in your life and church, maybe its time to hop down on the side of hope?

Theres so much you can do to bring the change we need to see.

Register as an Eco-Congregation and help us make the world a better place. Or let us know what you’re doing at home and in your congregation so we can share it to inspire others.

 

“That’s the way it will be back home!” – Chaplain’s Blog

Matthew 13:51: 

Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of their treasure what is new and what is old.”

Some years ago, I was at an international church gathering where  we were challenged by daily bible studies on neglected parts of Scripture.

These particular ‘treasures’  immersed us in  stories of violence and barely believable  injustice.

We batted ideas around, but it was noticeable  that one of our number, from Burma/Myanmar was very quiet.

Eventually, we were all longing to hear what he might have to say.  When he did speak, he silenced us all. “That’s the way it is back home….”

As I’ve begun to get my teeth into Eco-Chaplaincy,  at this  time of high drama in the news, with a growing awareness of the  urgency of action, so too, I’m rummaging around in the treasure-box of Christian scripture and tradition.

What is coming to light, is both  how widely Christianity is equipped for catastrophic times…. and how universally that equipment  is ignored, disregarded, ridiculed, or completely misunderstood.  With Advent in sight, when lectionaries and other traditions entertain apocalyptic Bible readings, these previously quaint or ornamental texts of turmoil are beginning to assert their relevance, with language full or environmental and political upheaval.

When visiting congregations, I’ve been very open, both about the seriously grim prospects for climate change, as well as looking for ways to say, with eyes wide open, and with integrity ‘Halleluyah anyway’.  As a movement,  we are certainly a work in progress, but with great potential in shaping the witness of the churches in a time of threat without precedent.  Because, without action, “that’s the way it’s going to be back home” … for our common home, the Earth.

love & peace,
Rev’d David J.M.Coleman