In February 2020, General Synod recognised the climate emergency and voted to set a target for the whole Church of England of achieving 'net zero' carbon by 2030.
This commitment requires us all to take action to reduce our carbon footprint. This will involve making material changes to our buildings and adopting new behaviours that both reduce our energy use and switch usage to renewable sources.
The Lichfield Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) supports the goal for all church buildings in the diocese to achieve 'net zero' by 2030.
Case studies and webinars
As a starting point to the subject, PCCs may wish to consult the following up-to-date Church of England resources:
- Net zero carbon: answering the call (5-minute video hosted on YouTube)
- Net zero carbon and environmental case studies (videos and text-based examples)
- Webinars on getting to net zero carbon (including recordings of previous webinars)
Church of England routemap
With the Routemap, we see a future in 2030 where the buildings of the Church will be warm, bright and welcoming, powered by renewable energy and using low or zero carbon technologies for heat and light... To meet Synod's target, our focus needs to be on reducing the energy use of our buildings.
Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030
The Church of England has undertaken extensive consultation with dioceses and other stakeholders on a Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030, which details how this national target can be reached. The final (post-consultation) version of the routemap was approved by General Synod in July 2022.
The routemap includes milestones for church buildings, which are recommended to be undertaken by parishes by specific years between 2022–30, including early and ongoing participation in the Church of England's Energy Footprint Tool, to measure each church's individual carbon footprint.
Church size and location
The size and location of the church building has a large impact on its carbon footprint: generally, the larger the church means the larger the carbon footprint, and churches in urban parishes have a much larger carbon footprint than those in rural parishes.
Energy Footprint Tool Report 2020
Church buildings nationally account for about 25% of the total carbon footprint of the Church of England. However, more specific data from the Energy Footprint Tool Report 2020 indicates that the building size, and whether the church is in a rural or urban parish, has a significant impact on its individual carbon footprint.
The report highlights the differences that this can make, with the average large urban church emitting around 21 tonnes of net CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), around 15 times the amount of an average small rural church, which emits just under 2 tonnes of net CO2e.
A separate but additional factor is frequency of use, ranging from low-occupancy churches used only on a Sunday to busy multi-functional churches with high energy use.
Related to which, at the building level, a national sample of churches and church halls analysed in 2020, included in the Routemap (above), shows that on average heating accounts for 84% of energy use and lighting for 6% (other forms for 10%).
Calculating your carbon footprint
The Energy Footprint Tool allows all churches around the country to enter their utility bills and find out their 'carbon footprint'.
Energy Footprint Tool
To calculate your church's carbon footprint there are two tools available. Start with the Church of England's simple Energy Footprint Tool (EFT). The EFT is available to all churches using the Online Parish Returns System. It reopened in March 2022 for parishes to enter their 2021 utility bills, and remained open until 31st July 2022.
The EFT only takes a few minutes and lets you calculate the carbon footprint from your use of electricity, oil and gas. One of its great benefits is that once you have entered your data and clicked to confirm, it will display an immediate report and results.
Then, if you are keen and want to go further, use 360°carbon by Climate Stewards to calculate the whole carbon footprint of energy, transport, food and purchases.
Every church is unique
No one church could, or should, do everything. Every church is unique and the right combination of actions for your church will need careful consideration. Some are quick wins, others will need careful planning, expert advice, and fundraising.
Net Zero Carbon Church
To explore the kinds of changes that can help your church cut its carbon footprint, the Church of England has developed a dedicated web page on the net zero carbon church. It is recommended that parishes start by visiting this online hub, which includes:
- interactive diagrams
- links to guidance
- net zero webinar recordings
- case studies
The hub page also includes key resources on buildings and energy efficiency from external organisations, including Historic England, and A Rocha UK's Eco Church.
Taking the practical path
These recommendations aim to help churches reduce their energy use and associated carbon emissions. They are based on the findings of our church energy audit programme and input from of a range of professionals in the field.
Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches
The Church of England has also published a 'practical path' to net zero carbon for churches, setting out where most churches should start, and more advanced projects for churches who use more energy.
The recommendations in this short, two-page guidance note aim to summarise how churches can reduce their energy use and associated carbon emissions.
A great first step for your church is to complete the self-guided checklist, against all the steps in the Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches guidance note.
Once you have finished your review, discuss the results in your PCC and agree next steps. The completed checklist will also be a useful attachment for future faculty applications.
Permissions for changes
Many of the suggestions require faculty; please seek input early on. If the church interior is of historic, artistic, architectural or artistic interest, seek professional and DAC advice first, before making changes; stabilising the environment for these interiors is important to minimise cycles of treatment, with their inherent carbon cost.
Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches
In February 2022, General Synod approved new legislation to help parishes meet carbon-reduction targets.
The path to net zero has many steps, and a lot of them are things that you can just do, without needing permission or discussion with anyone outside the PCC or church. As a general rule, permission is not needed for any steps that are about using existing installations more efficiently, keeping ahead of maintenance, or replacing bulbs with more efficient ones.
For changes that require some new installations, maybe better heating controls, installing a bike rack, or repairs to the building, List B permission will be needed from the Archdeacon. Parishes can apply for permission through an online application via the Church of England's Online Faculty System (OFS), a web-based application portal.
If a step you wish to make will make a change to the character of the building, a faculty will be required, which is also made online via the OFS. This will include things like loft and roof insulation, secondary or double glazing, permanent subdivision or new rooms within the church, and heating and lighting schemes that replace existing ones.
If a step you wish to make changes the outside appearance, such as solar panels or EV car charging posts, separate planning permission is often needed.
Faculty changes (2022) and key guidance
If the proposal involves a matter to which net zero guidance applies, the proposal must include an explanation of how the applicants, in formulating the proposal, have had due regard to that guidance.
Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022
The Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022, which came into effect on 1st July 2022, require parishes and the DAC to have 'due regard' to guidance on net zero carbon issued by the Church of England's Church Buildings Council (CBC), for those proposals where it applies. This requirement is applicable to both List B (Archdeacon's permission) and faculty schemes.
For these Rules, the CBC has directed that the following key pieces of guidance must be given due regard when relevant to your proposal:
- The Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches
- Heating Principles
- Heating Checklist
- Heating Options Appraisal
- Electric Vehicle Charging
- Solar Panels and Faculty
These links are specific to particular types of proposals, and only the relevant guidance needs to be taken into account.
The Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches is included in the guidance and this must be given due regard for all proposals, as it provides the context to show that the proposal is part of a wider understanding by the parish of its route to net zero carbon.
Separately, the CBC has jointly published with the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association (EASA) two sustainability and net zero carbon 'best practice' notes on:
This guidance should also be given due consideration by architects and surveyors conducting quinquennial inspections and planning new projects in churches.
If you have any queries regarding permission types, please contact the respective case officer:
List B (Archdeacon's permission):
Helen Cook, Assistant DAC Secretary
01543 622569 firstname.lastname@example.org
Giles Standing, DAC Secretary
01543 622540 email@example.com