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How can leaders drive climate action? Case study #11: Church of England

In this series of case studies, sector leaders outline some of the steps they have taken to drive climate action in their organisations. This doesn’t mean they have completed everything, but that they have picked a place to start, which unblocks fear and drives action in other areas. We hope this series gives you lots of ideas for climate action in your own organisation. If you would like to submit a case study to keep this series going, please email heloisa.righetto@acevo.org.uk.

This week, we hear from Denise Rowley, net zero carbon planning officer in Church of England‘s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division.

Area of focus: net zero carbon engagement and consultation

Can you describe the actions you have taken? How did you identify the problem and implement a process?

In February 2020 the General Synod of the Church of England approved a motion that called for a plan of action to achieve net zero by 2030.

The resulting plan of action, the Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030, was prepared by a sub-group of the National Environment Working Group.  They recognised that the draft needed strengthening by drawing on the existing expertise across the Church, and to ensure a sense of joint ownership of the project, especially with those most impacted by the proposals.

The Routemap consultation was launched in October 2021 with invitations sent to the 42 dioceses (each an independent charity) and other relevant committees and institutions. The documentation was hosted on the Church website, and any interested party could respond using an online survey form. Online information sessions, tailored to specific audiences, were held to introduce the consultation document and allow debate.

What has been successful?

The consultation has raised the profile of the net zero challenge across the Church, led to local discussions, and provided considered feedback to shape the final revision of the document.

In the survey, we asked for case studies and there has been a great response to this which will allow us to share the stories of those who are further on the road to net zero and inspire those who are just starting on the journey.

What had been most challenging?

For the respondents, reading the document, finding time to consult internally and reply using SurveyMonkey added to resource constraints exacerbated by Covid.  Despite this, a welcome challenge for us has been the volume of the written responses.

What did you learn from starting work in this area or what would you do differently?

The biggest learning was that the online information sessions were a great way to get the net zero message to a wider audience and share key action points.  If we were to start this work now, maybe the approach to the survey would change. For instance, we would streamline the survey questions and send a reminder ahead of the closing date – a few practical things that may seem ‘small’ but would definitely have helped.

How could the sector more effectively collaborate or share knowledge in this space? Can ACEVO or other membership bodies support this work in ways that would have helped you?

A number of responses to our consultation highlighted the need for shared resources to “prevent reinventing the wheel”.  We have created a restricted access Net Zero Carbon Resource Hub for Dioceses to share internal examples. We also have a number of case studies on our website which may be of interest to other charities too. (Towards “Net Zero Carbon”: Case studies | The Church of England). 

More broadly, sharing examples across membership bodies of how low carbon technologies have been used – the costs, savings, challenges and benefits would be helpful (particularly for emerging technologies like heat pumps and for applying low carbon technologies in historic and/or listed buildings), along with opportunities for partnership working to deliver low carbon solutions. 

There are opportunities for the charity sector to join forces to influence government policy to facilitate retrofitting of building stock, including ensuring appropriate skills and training for low carbon installers. A long term policy that speaks to the needs of charities, as well as individuals and businesses, would help the sector plan well and play our part in the transition.

Identifying funding opportunities is another area that may benefit from sharing knowledge.

Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

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