4th October is the day the church remembers St Francis of Assisi. It also marks the end of the Season of Creation (1st Sept to 4th Oct) during which churches worldwide pray for creation, that it may be well cared for, sustained and passed onto future generations in a healthy condition. Both St Mary’s and St Michael’s have had Care of Creation services in September and it seems appropriate that St Mary’s will observe Harvest Thanksgiving on 4th October.
I have a role as Bishop’s Adviser for the Environment and so I follow environmental issues. I recently attended an online talk by Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the UK Committee on Climate Change. This is the independent body set up by the Climate Change Act 2008 to hold the government to account over its legal obligations to cut the emission of greenhouse gases which cause climate change, especially, Carbon Dioxide and Methane.
We can easily feel overawed at the challenge of cutting carbon emissions, but Mr Stark’s talk was noticeable for its optimism. Much of his optimism concerned the power generation sector where power sector emissions have been reduced by two thirds from 2008 to 2019. This has been caused by a rapid investment in offshore wind generation, matched by a dramatic fall in coal generation, which is increasingly uneconomic because of the way that carbon emissions are priced. Around half the UK’s current generation is now carbon free, coming from renewables or nuclear. Mr Stark believes that further significant falls are very achievable because electricity generated from offshore wind is now often less expensive than the fossil fuel equivalent.
Mr Stark was also confident that the long-term prospects for electric cars are very good, and that a significant drop in the cardon emissions associated with petrol and diesel cars is very possible.
There are other areas which Mr Stark noted were more difficult. Currently most space heating for houses and offices uses gas and oil. Electric boilers and heat pumps can be used instead but the underlying costs of these tend to be higher. Significant changes to agriculture are required, but to effect these it would be necessary to produce (and therefore eat!) much less beef and lamb.
As we rebuild our lives in the COVID adjusted world we have an outstanding opportunity to build back better as individuals and as society. We need to encourage our politicians to help us, and we need to favour lower carbon lifestyles with less travel, and less beef and lamb. I hope we will make the most of the opportunity and pass on a good environment to the next generations.
With prayers and best wishes, Fr Patrick
Prayer for the Climate Emergency
God our creator, create in us a new heart,
a new understanding, a new way of living.
God our Redeemer, rescue us from the brink of disaster,
open our eyes to see the dangers that lie ahead.
God our Sustainer, equip and energize us,
to hold fast to the changes that we need to make.
From A Time for Creation – Liturgical Resources for Creation and the Environment
Church House Publishing 2020