Welcome to RCEL's blogsite

Welcome to Reading Christian Ecology Link's blogsite

"For the Church of the 21st century, good ecology is not an optional extra but a matter of justice. It is therefore central to what it means to be a Christian"
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Earthing Faith Gathering Planning

North Hinksey Church
I was up at Diocesan Church House in Oxford this morning to help plan the first gathering of the Earthing Faith Network - the train at 9.40 was surprisingly empty so very easy with the bike and the last part of the cycle ride to North Hinksey is beautiful. Matt reported that there has been great interest in the SMeasure scheme for churches to monitor emissions with more than 100 expressions of interest and 37 churches now regsitered. There has also been interest from 50 schools.
Most of the meeting was spent planning the forthcoming gathering at Diocesan Church House on 2nd February which promises to be a wonderful opportunity for finding out what else is happening around the diocese, learning from others' experiences and building community.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Reading Means Business on Climate Change

This morning 125 representatives from Reading businesses, council, voluntary organisations, University etc gathered at the University of Reading to begin the process of drawing up Reading's next Climate Change Strategy.
The University's new Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, opened proceedings and mentioned the University's pledge, made last year, to cut its emissions by 35% by 2015/16.

The event began with inspiring talks from Peter Harper of the Centre for Alternative Technology: 'Taking Decarbonisation Seriously: What Would it be Like?' (summarised below); and Dennis Moynihan of the Institute for Sustainability: 'Towards Low-Carbon Communities: Making the Magic Happen'.

Sally Coble of the Environment Agency and Ben Burfoot from RBC reported on the Reading Climate Change Partnership and the council's progress so far. The council's target is to reduce emissions by 50% by 2020. Within Reading nearly 2000 homes have been insulated through the Heatseekers initiative, 24 businesses have committed to 10:10, there are 24% fewer car trips to the centre of town compared with 2006 and their current energy generation is over target although this is largely due to landfill gas which will soon be exhausted. This weekend the council's £5 million project to put pv panels on properties in the town will begin.
The total emissions in Reading were just under 1 million tonnes in 2005 and had been reduced to just over 800,000 by 2009, a reduction of 22% which is the best for any unitary borough in the south east.

There followed workshops to build a vision and gather action ideas for the new strategy. The large number of flip chart sheets and post-it notes generated now have to be worked through!

Taking Decarbonisation Seriously
By international standards the UK is doing well and it is important to recognise that small entities, be that the UK or Reading, are significant as exemplars. However, it is deeply worrying that it is thought possible that with concerted international action we could keep warming below 2C which is estimated to give a 75% chance of avoiding the risk of 'dangerous climate change' - not very good odds. The UK is currently spending above its fair share of the affordable world carbon budget, especially when emissions elsewhere on our behalf are considered. The CAT emphasise that 'physics trumps politics' ('the Cnut principle'). We must start with physics and adjust the politics and economics to fit. Given the UK's history of emissions they need to be not just zero carbon but negative carbon to clear a fair space in the budget for developing countries. CAT have drawn up a scheme to achieve this involving alternative technologies but the necessary negative carbon cannot be achieved without lifestyle changes too eg although most people would still travel in cars there would be lower individual ownership. More drastically air miles would need to be cut by 60% - to the level of the 1970s. The large amount of biomass required would change the appearance of the countryside and require a reduction in grazing livestock with knock on effects for diet. The net result would be a shift in the livestock/crop protein ratio from 55:45 to 33:67. It would also mean a better and more secure diet (with fewer imports) and more people in land-based jobs.
Insisting on maintaing the status quo will eventually destroy it. Applying the necessary adjustments will keep as much as possible of the status quo.
The consequences of their scheme:
Greater energy security as more is produced in the UK
Deal with Peak Oil/Gas
Decarbonising the economy sorts out most other environmental problems as well
High employment
A positive balance of payments
Greater food security (but fewer cows)
Improved diet
Better prospects for our children
This is our chance to make the inevitable transition from seeking 'more' to seeking 'better'. Like our children, there comes a time when the economy has to stop growing bigger and get nicer!