Churches, Christians and Carbon Counting: an urgent call to action
The urgency of climate change demands action from Christians. In seeking to reduce our carbon emissions, the support and fellowship of a group that is taking similar action is invaluable. The Carbon Rationing Action Groups (CRAGs) model could be effective in creating this framework in churches or small groups/bible-study groups. CRAGs make it as simple as possible to record and reduce our carbon footprint information. Small groups would undertake a series of four bible-studies, after which they could decide whether they would like to form a CRAG. The aim is that Christians engage much more closely with issues of climate change and model a sustainable use of God’s resources in our own lives. This is as a response to Christ’s call for us to live in the Kingdom as well as being a powerful witness to others.
If you are interested in getting involved, perhaps by running the bible studies at your church, or starting a group, or if you simply want to find out more please contact Kat (contact details at end)
2009 is a key year for decisions on Climate Change. The December meeting of nations in Copenhagen to discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol is widely held to be critical in determining the future of our planet. The science is stark; more and more evidence is showing that we are on the cusp of dangerous climate change. The time may already be past for keeping global temperature rises below 2oC. This year the world needs to take a new path by radically reducing emissions and we have a small window of opportunity in which to act.
What is our reaction to the issue of climate change as Christians?
There are a number of reasons why climate change is an issue for Christians. Firstly because the world is God’s creation, it belongs to God and he cares about it. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ Psalm 24 v1. We are reminded that we are God’s tenants on earth Leviticus 25 v 23 ‘the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.’
Secondly, God has given us the responsibility of being stewards of his creation (Genesis 1). The power that God gave us to ’rule’ over his creation goes alongside the responsibilities that come with being made in the image of God. This means exhibiting compassion, love and justice in how we treat creation and modelling Jesus in our interactions with each other and with the natural world.
Thirdly, God commands us to love our neighbour, to seek justice for the oppressed and to protect the poor. Our use of creation as a mine for resources and a dump for our waste is causing suffering to people all over the world and especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Climate change shows this effect up particularly starkly. Half of the world’s emissions are caused by the richest sixth of the world’s population who almost all live in rich, western societies. The science shows that the people who will be worst affected by climate change, and who are already suffering its effects, live in the poorest countries of the world.
Fourthly, we are all contributing to climate change and so we all have a responsibility to act. Our faith calls us to love God and to love our neighbour and this means that there are no excuses for inaction. We need to act, even if this means making significant changes to our lives; we need to act, even if our actions alone will not arrest climate change; we need to act even if we are isolated in doing so. Our response to climate change is to look to Christ’s example.
Lastly, it is vital that Christians are engaged with the debate on climate change so that we can shine as lights. The evidence shows that, even if we halt all emissions tomorrow, we may still get temperature rises of 2oC, which would be catastrophic for the planet. We are undoubtedly heading for a very challenging time as a nation and Christians need to be bringing a message of hope into this situation.
What can we do:
Firstly it is vital to pray for the outcome of the December Copenhagen conference. Preparatory discussions will be taking place throughout the year, we need to pray for leaders, scientists and campaigners as our governments seek to understand the issues and negotiate a solution.
Secondly, let’s look to our own lives. We need to know where we are creating greenhouse emissions before we start to reduce them. Being part of a group monitoring their greenhouse emissions can be very helpful in motivating and supporting action in our own lives. Carbon Rationing Action Groups is a model for this and one that would be very suitable to be run within churches, or church small groups.
The proposal is that existing small groups or bible study groups could do a series of four bible studies to explore the issues of creation-care and climate change in a theological context. If they would like start accounting for their emissions of carbon as a group, a facilitator would attend a meeting where each individual in the small-group would estimate their carbon use for the past year. The group would come up with a reduction target to be monitored each quarter and an annual event would celebrate achievements and look to the next year. This whole process is designed to be as easy as possible. The only data that needs to be recorded is gas and electricity meter readings, car mileage and flights.
The CRAG team would be happy to act as ‘accountants’ for the groups, keep the records and return the results for the group in graphical form, as well as advising on setting targets and reminding small-groups when their ‘carbon returns’ were due.
CRAGs run a website where each group can have it’s own site for documenting experiences and sharing information. Please see www.carbonrationing.org for further information. There are also web-based carbon accounting packages that can assist in this. See www.thecarbonaccount.com for information.
Where do we go from here?
We are hoping that many churches and Christian groups will want to explore the issues of our impact on the climate and our response as Christians. The bible studies are ideal for using in small groups or bible study groups at churches, which may then wish to go on to monitor their own carbon emissions.
If you are interested, and want to receive the bible study notes, want someone to visit your church to talk more about it or just to find out more please contact:
Kat Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Bible Studies: Outline
Study 1: Creation, God’s abundance and our place in it
Main passages; Genesis 1:26 – 2:2, Psalm 104
Study 2: Sin, separation and the consequences for the creation
Main Passages: Read Hosea 4:1-3, Romans 8:19-27
Study 3: Restoration and Redemption
Main Passages: Hosea 2: 8-23, Revelation 21:1-5
Study 4: Living in the Kingdom
Main Passages: Isaiah 58:1-11, Colossians 1:15-20, 2:13-15
CRAGs: Carbon Rationing Action Groups tend to be small groups of 8-15 people who are committed to accounting for their emissions of carbon and to reducing them. CRAGs have a wide variety of ways of operating but many find that it is helpful to meet quarterly to share carbon emissions data. This will show the seasonal pattern of emissions, gives continuity and encouragement to the rest of the group, and is an opportunity for sharing experiences, tips and difficulties.
The average UK resident has a carbon footprint of 11 tonnes of CO2 per year. This can be split roughly in half, into the direct emissions (from fuel use, electricity use and transport), and the indirect emissions (from carbon in goods and services, food) and that emitted by government on our behalf (for things like education, healthcare and governance).
CRAGs count only the direct emissions, which are relatively easy to measure using fuel bills, car mileage and flights taken. Groups start by auditing the current carbon emissions of each member. The aim is to make the counting as hassle-free as possible. Some CRAGs may also choose to measure public transport journeys taken to places outwith the local area. By typing the figures into a spreadsheet, the tonnes of carbon emitted can be calculated.
A CRAG would then decide on a target for the following year, perhaps a 10% reduction on the UK average each year. The Glasgow CRAG exceeded this by making a cut of 30% in emissions in the first year and in year two aimed for a target of the global average (which is nearly a third of the UK average).
The good thing about accounting for the use of your carbon with a group of people is the encouragement you have to reduce your emissions. Just becoming aware of where your emissions are coming from is helpful, and the fellowship of the group encourages reductions. Some groups choose to place a fine on those members who overshoot on the group’s target and this can act as a motivation for meeting your reduction targets or act as a small-scale model of a carbon tax.
More information can be found at www.carbonrationing.org