UK churches give up fossil fuels for Lent

Negotiations are underway to move at least £1m away from fossil fuels and into clean energy, as more than 400 churches across the UK begin to switch to renewable energy providers.

The Big Church Switch – launched at the beginning of Lent – has seen 424 churches begin negotiations to switch to renewable energy providers that will cater for their energy needs using clean energy.

The initiative, which is being run by charities Christian Aid and Tearfund, has received backing from the Bishop of Manchester, who described the move as a ‘practical’ way to battle climate change.

“As individuals and churches we have a choice in how we treat the earth, how we spend our money, how we power our homes and our buildings,” Bishop David Walker said.

“By creating technology which can turn wind and sunshine into clean and renewable energy, humans continue to benefit from the gift of creation. Making the most of this bountiful harvest is a common-sense way for us to roll back the ravages of climate change and ensure we are taking an active role in being part of the solution.”

In addition to the church pledge, Quakers – a society that adopts other religious teachings into modern Christianity across Britain – has arranged a deal with green electricity supplier Good Energy that will add to the 100 meeting points it uses which have already shifted to renewable energy.

Among the churches to announce the switch is the New Room in Bristol, considered to be the oldest Methodist Church in the world. Its manager David Worthington hopes the symbolism of a historic building investing in new energy will lead others to ‘embrace’ the transition.

“We may be the oldest Methodist building in the world but that doesn’t mean we have to use the polluting energy of the past.” Worthington said. “We take seriously the impact we have on our neighbours, both locally and globally.

“Switching our energy provider to clean sources of power is a simple thing we can do to help the global transition to a low carbon world. If we, in a building as old as ours, can embrace the idea of renewable energy then anyone can.”

Hymn for the future

The move follows on from that of the World Council of Churches, which represents half a billion Christians, to stop investing in fossil fuels in 2014 – a decision that was heralded as a ‘major victory’ by green campaigners.

Last year, the Church of England’s governing body, the General Synod, voted overwhelmingly to support a policy to divest from companies deriving more than 10% of their revenue from the extraction of thermal coal and tar sands oil.

Speaking of this newfound religious movement, Christian Aid’s head of advocacy Laura Taylor said: “The Big Church Switch shows that people are willing to reduce our CO2 emissions, and that we want to take action together. The UK Government must help accelerate the shift from fossil fuels to renewables as they prepare the next carbon budget for our country.”

Matt Mace

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