More than 5,500 UK churches now running on renewables

British churches have diverted more than £5m from fossil fuels, with more than 5,500 places of worship putting their faith in clean energy by switching to renewables.

A variety of buying schemes have enabled churches – ranging from small parishes to 15 Anglican cathedrals including Salisbury, Bristol, Sheffield and York Minster – to switch to 100% renewable energy.

Progress has been driven by the Church of England’s procurement group Parish Buying, and the Big Church Switch campaign, a partnership between Christian Aid, Tearfund and the Church of England’s Environment Programme.

In 2016, the number of UK churches that had switched to renewable energy tariffs sat a 3,500. The 2,000 or so increase in two years is set to rise further, with church leaders encouraging more to switch away from fossil fuels.

The Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury said: “Climate change is one of the great moral challenges of our time and so it’s fantastic to see churches doing their bit to ensure they reduce their impact on the environment. They are also giving a boost to clean energy which is essential to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

“It’s very encouraging to see more churches walking the walk and making concrete steps to ensure our common home is greener and cleaner…hopefully the number continues to grow. Switching to responsible sources of electricity may seem like a small thing on its own, but when joined together it can make a real difference.”

According to the national church buying group, 2buy2, British churches have diverted more than £5m away from fossil fuel companies – based on average annual church electricity bills of £1,000.

The number of churches switching to green energy builds on the Church of England’s ‘ecotheology’, which has seen it divest from coal mining and oil from tar sands.

Churches have also used the Lent period to “give up” fossil fuel energy and even plastics in recent years while encouraging worshippers to do the same.

Will Government see the light?

Commenting on the announcement, former Archbishop of Canterbury and chair of Christian Aid, Dr Rowan Williams, added his name to the growing list of public figures to call on the UK Government to enshrine a net-zero carbon target into UK law.

“The UK Government also claims to care for people living in poverty around the world which is why it would be good to see it commit to setting a net zero emissions target for 2050,” Williams said. 

“That would be in line with the Paris Agreement and ensure Britain remains a green and pleasant land at home and a climate leader abroad.”

Earlier this week, it was revealed that more than 100 MPs have now signed a letter calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to establish a net-zero emissions target for 2050.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband is one of the signatories of the letter and recently told edie that the Government should set a precedent to other countries by introducing a net-zero target before December’s COP24 summit in Poland.

Renewable UK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck added: “Renewable energy is now a mainstream power source. Any organisation that takes tackling climate change seriously would want to make sure it’s taking full advantage of our bountiful natural resources, including wind, wave and tidal power. 

“Renewables are already the cheapest form of new electricity and costs are continuing to fall even further. We’re creating jobs and attracting investment to parts of the country which need it most, such as coastal communities. That’s good news for everyone.”

Matt Mace

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