Set Your House in Order: The Case for a National Carbon Reduction Program for UCC Faith Buildings

Laidlaw U.C. Hamilton.

Laidlaw U.C. Hamilton.

It is extremely difficult to change others. When it comes to motivating climate change action, the challenge seems insurmountable. Perhaps the best thing one can do for real change, is to begin with oneself, and hope that others will follow suit.

As a religious institution that upholds the ideal that all creation matters, the United Church of Canada (UCC) believes that change begins at home.  When it comes to climate change, the question is, how do we put our own faith houses in order?   How can the Church reduce the carbon footprint of its own activities?

While carbon emissions stem from many sources, including transportation, waste and buildings, the UCC is keen to focus first on reducing carbon emissions from its places of worship.  This is a strategic decision based on the fact that the energy used to light and heat UCC faith buildings is one of the UCC’s largest carbon contributors – and also one of its biggest expenses.

To guide this effort, the UCC’s General Council ordered a six-month study, by Faith & the Common Good and Build Green, seeking to answer the following key questions:

1. What amount of carbon are UCC faith buildings collectively producing?

2. How could a national carbon reduction program support congregations in reducing their carbon footprint?

Some of the report’s key take-aways include:

  • Strong support across the country for bold climate action as integral to UCC mission, despite numerous obstacles.
  • Current estimated UCC faith building footprint = 135k tonnes of carbon dioxide.  For organizations, like the UCC, buildings usually make up 40%, transport 40%, and waste 20% of the overall carbon footprint.  We recommended embracing an 80% carbon reduction goal by 2050 (in line with global targets).  Start with buildings, then focus on transport and waste.
  • While the church as a whole can make the largest initial impact on its carbon footprint by reducing building energy consumption in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the cost saving benefits to congregations of carbon footprint reduction apply to all regions. This is especially important because electricity prices are projected to continue to rise.
  • The report lays out an array of carbon reduction strategies for congregations. Key themes: Tangible, easy to use tools.  Can’t change what you don’t measure.  Find community partners to help.  There is $, if you know where to look.
  • Given the nature of faith buildings, it will be very difficult to achieve these carbon reduction goals without simultaneously decarbonizing our electricity grids. So our creation cares goals necessitate clean energy advocacy in addition to localized energy efficiency action.

With a national carbon reduction strategy, the UCC can fulfill its sacred calling to care for creation, its communities and congregations. The timing is excellent to act now. Read the whole report at this link: UCC.National Carbon Reduction Report.2016.07.08.