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.
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.
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.