In March last year the sky above my house suddenly emptied of planes and their contrails, and we all began to notice the birdsong. Lockdown meant that harmful carbon emissions from travel more or less ceased overnight. The sudden dip in emissions has been likened to someone turning off the taps in an already-full bath; it doesn’t overflow, but as soon as the taps are turned on again, the problem remains. We know that greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for many decades, so an 18-month pause will have little long-term impact. By August this year, flights had risen to about 50% of pre-Covid levels globally and are predicted to return to 100% of pre-Covid levels by mid-2022.
Meanwhile, the world’s top scientists are continuing to gather and analyse data on how the climate is changing. In August, the UN published their most comprehensive report ever on the physical science of climate change. Thousands of top scientist from 66 countries contributed to the report. Its headline was ‘Code Red for Humanity’.
Increasing carbon emissions are causing the world to heat at an alarming rate. More energy in the system means more extreme weather – heavy rain, flooding and cyclones in high altitudes, droughts in the subtopics, and sea level rises affecting coastal cities.
Some years ago, the CEO of a large Christian development charity told me that when he started his job, he commissioned a report to find out the causes of the issues they were dealing with – crop failure, poverty, hunger, refugees, droughts, floods etc. The report concluded that in every case climate change was a significant contributing factor to the problems. From then on, this organisation has focused on tackling climate change as a key part of their work.
So how can OSCAR users - many of whom need to travel to do their work, and all of whom will share a love and concern for our global neighbours being impacted by climate change – respond?
For individuals, the Climate Stewards strapline of “Reduce what you can; offset the rest” says it all. Are there ways I can reduce my personal carbon footprint, in particular from flying which has the highest impact of any single activity, and tread more lightly on the earth? And how can I encourage my organisation to embed creation care in its decision making?
For an organisation to be “Carbon Neutral” it will need to measure its carbon footprint, set year-on-year targets to reduce carbon emissions, offset what can’t be reduced, and – importantly – communicate this to its supporters and partners.
- Measure the carbon footprint of your organisation for a baseline year (we suggest 2019 rather than 2020!). Small organisations can use our free online carbon calculator 360˚carbon. Larger organisations may want to seek consultancy advice from Climate Stewards or other carbon footprint auditors.
- Plan for year-on-year reductions. If you don’t already have one, could your organisation develop an environmental policy and action plan? You will want to think about how to embed creation care in every aspect of your operations, grounded in good theology. There will be some quick wins as you look to reduce your footprint, but other actions may take longer.
- Reduce what you can. We have all learnt to use Zoom in the past year – could you alternate face to face and virtual meetings? Could you set departmental carbon budgets, reducing year on year? Could you reach the same people groups by working with refugee or immigrant communities closer to home? Have you considered employing more national staff rather than expats?
If you fly, choose direct flights which use less fuel than routes with more stopovers. On the ground, switching to renewable energy supplies and making your office more energy efficient, using electric cars or public transport will all help reduce your emissions.
- Offset the rest. When you have reduced what you can, you can compensate for any outstanding emissions by funding projects which remove or reduce carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Climate Stewards’ partner projects all bring local benefits to health, livelihoods, and biodiversity alongside carbon reduction.
- Communicate. While Christians have taken the lead on many social justice campaigns in the past, we aren’t generally known for raising our voices on issues around climate change and the environment – which are already having devastating impacts on our global neighbours. With the UN climate change conference COP26 coming up in Glasgow in November, we have an amazing opportunity to speak up for God’s creation. Why not tell your supporters why you care and what action you are taking? Head to Climate Sunday’s website for useful resources and links.
- Repeat! Climate change has been described as the greatest threat facing humanity, and we can’t afford to stand still. You will want to review plans and actions each year.
Climate Stewards is part of the worldwide A Rocha family, showing God’s love for all of creation. We recognise that we are all called to be good stewards of the earth, but that our lifestyles often cause harm rather than flourishing to the humans and creatures with whom we share the earth. We work with many organisations as well as churches and businesses to help them measure, reduce, and offset their carbon footprint.