Net Zero Carbon Action Plan

The "Routemap" is a plan for how the Church of England can be net zero carbon by 2030. It was approved by General Synod in July 2022.

The Diocese of Ely is committed to its own Synod debating and agreeing a Net Zero Carbon Action Plan before the end of 2023.

The National Net Carbon Zero Routemap states:

All dioceses provide an outline of their decarbonisation plans to Diocesan Synod as a Net Zero Carbon Action Plan, to include estimates of costs for different options, as well as the policy changes and levers for change required. To be reviewed annually by senior staff. The plan should make reference to the Practical Path to Net Zero and actively consider implementation of ‘quick wins’, how to decarbonise heat, how to reduce energy consumption and how to encourage behaviour change. [by 2023]

The following section provides some further comment on Net Zero Carbon (NZC) planning in advance of the Diocese finalising its appraoch.

Some Basic Principles in tackling Net Zero Carbon (NZC) planning

The text below are key extracts from the National Net Zero Carbon Routemap with some observation notes from the Diocese team.


The Routemap focuses efforts on interventions for high-energy-use buildings to reduce gross energy consumption and gross carbon emissions, whilst encouraging low-energy-use buildings to take all reasonable efforts to reduce energy consumption and switch to a green energy tariff. It also focusses on business travel in church-owned petrol and diesel vehicles.

This should be reassuring. Despite the mentions of ‘should consider’, the Net Zero Carbon focus, and therefore yours and ours is on the following points (These will of course be more than demanding enough!)

  • a) large and busy churches
  • b) clergy housing
  • c) schools.

The Diocesan Net Zero Carbon Action Plan should include the following:

  1. make reference to the Practical Path to Net Zero [1]
  2. actively consider implementation of ‘quick wins’, [see list of "easy wins" below]
  3. how to decarbonise heat,
  4. how to reduce energy consumption and
  5. how to encourage behaviour change.

When considering your own action planning, do keep these five points in mind.

[1] The Practical Path to Net Zero might be summarised as:

  • Where do we start?
  • Where do we go next?
  • Getting to zero
  • Special situations

And for each of these there are the subheadings:

  • The building itself
  • Heating and lighting
  • People and policies
  • Church grounds
  • Offsetting

Highlights from the Executive Summary of the National Plan

  • Plan – review your buildings/estate, identify what needs to be done and when. Use this to plan suitable times for work, identify if projects can be aggregated for cost-saving or to obtain funding and to optimise funds, skills and resources. [Note: Planning is the particular focus of the next two years.]
  • Maintain – keep on top of routine maintenance to reduce energy consumption and hence carbon emissions. For our smaller churches, used only occasionally, maintenance is the key. [Note: This is just further encouragement to do what we are hopefully, already doing.]
  • Reduce – consider where and why you are using energy and whether there are ways to reduce energy consumption and travel to eliminate carbon emissions. This includes changes in behaviour and ways of working as well as changes to heating and lighting systems and the use of different means of travel. [Note: Reduce, decarbonise and behaviour change]
  • Opportunities – look for actions that reduce carbon emissions and also generate income (for example solar PV panels, electric vehicle charging points) and interventions that can deliver multiple benefits (for example reduced air pollution, community use, prevention of overheating in a warming climate). [Note: and benefits for biodiversity.]
  • Easy Wins - Consider the easy wins to reduce emissions in all buildings: [Note: Most of these quick wins are actually fairly easy.]
    • Establishing working groups, developing understanding of the issues and communicating them, sharing experience, and identifying and implementing policy changes.
    • Gathering data to enable the benefits and year-on-year reductions to be demonstrated.
    • Encouraging behaviour change – switching off unneeded lighting and equipment, choosing low-carbon travel options or avoiding travel.
    • Switching to green electricity and gas tariffs at point of contract renewal.
    • Replacing lighting with LEDs.
    • Reducing travel and encouraging walking, cycling, public transport and lift-sharing.
    • Developing replacement plans for equipment, especially ageing heating systems.
  • Harder changes - Plan longer term, more expensive interventions for those high energy consuming/high carbon emitting buildings: [Note: These are about planning at this stage.]
    • Developing an estates strategy for schools and clergy housing and investing in this.
    • Creating business cases, ready to apply when funding opportunities arise.
    • Installing insulation, appropriate to the age and nature of our buildings.

The Net Zero Carbon (NZC) Planning Principles

1. Based in theology: Treasuring God’s creation

  • We recognise that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and unjust to the poor and future generations. It is the context into which we are called to live and preach the Gospel.
  • We will link all our actions on net zero carbon to our Christian mission, as expressed in the Five Marks of Mission.
  • We will grow the Church while reducing our environmental footprint; Christ’s Gospel message will reach and engage new people, particularly the young.

2. Urgent, relevant and widely understood

  • Net zero is needed by 2030 but it starts now. We aren’t waiting; a significant reduction is needed every year, year-on-year.
  • We will communicate clearly the reasons for action, and for acting now recognising the existential threat that we all face.
  • We embrace the call to net zero carbon as an integral part of our mission; caring for creation, achieving climate justice, ending poverty, creating a viable future for ourselves and coming generations, and increasing engagement with our communities.
  • We will implement only tried and tested technology

3. Data-driven, focused and transparent

  • We recognise this work covers all of our activities as a Church, as set out in the scope agreed by General Synod.
  • We will gather good data on major sources of emissions, to inform our decisions e.g. energy consumption, EPC surveys and travel data.
  • We will be strategic, using our data to focus effort on the large, busy buildings such as secondary schools and our busiest churches. We know most small, rural churches already have a very small carbon footprint and the onus for action does not lie with them.
  • We will learn from others, sharing resources and collaborating. We will estimate costs for the changes and actively seek funding.

4. Embedded in all we do

  • We will aim to integrate ethical environmental principles into everything we are doing as the CofE.
  • We will encourage every level and part of the Church to take a formal decision to answer the call from General Synod e.g. a motion by the PCC, school governors, cathedral chapter, diocesan synod. Leaders at all levels will need to prioritise action.
  • We will identify those things directly in our control, and the things we influence, and discern appropriate strategies for both (including cobenefits for wildlife, social value, health, community etc).
  • We will encourage each part of the Church to gather a team to work on this, including a champion in a leadership position.
  • We will include carbon footprints into our reporting systems, both nationally and locally, e.g. APCM reports.
  • We will also include climate adaptation/resilience to protect our buildings and communities in increasingly extreme weather.

5. Using less energy, and from cleaner sources

  • We will aim for quick wins, whilst planning ahead for the harder actions such as moving away from oil and gas.
  • We will first reduce demand for energy by maintaining our buildings well (tackling damp, fixing broken windows etc) and by reducing heat loss as appropriate. Then we will increase energy efficiency through steps such as LED lighting, zoning and controls.
  • We will ensure energy is supplied from cleaner sources: switching to ‘green’ tariffs and increasing renewables on our buildings.
  • We recognise the vital importance of decarbonising heat since any new oil/gas boiler installed now will outlast 2030. We acknowledge the challenge and will strive to ensure options appraisals take place for all heating replacements of fossil oil and gas systems.
  • We recognise that some decisions will need to wait until later in the decade, for more certainty on technologies, funding and regulation.
  • We will aim to avoid maladaptation and to remember the embodied carbon in our building projects; we will avoid carrying out big interventions for small savings, while recognising the need to futureproof buildings to comply with potential future legislation.

6. Travelling sustainably

  • We will avoid unnecessary travel.
  • We will encourage sustainable transport and remember the travel hierarchy: walking, cycling, public transport, shared journeys, electric cars, fuel efficient cars, less efficient cars, ferries, flights.

7. Offsetting only what we cannot reduce

  • We will reduce all the carbon emissions we can, offsetting should be a last resort.
  • There will however be some role for offsetting and sequestration, towards 2030, and we will explore viable options whilst recognising most will not sequester carbon in the timescale of our target.
  • Where excess renewable energy is generated on our sites (e.g. from solar PV) we can export to the national grid as a valid offset.
  • We will protect and nurture the trees, soils and wild spaces we already have and the carbon they store. There are a range of nature-based climate interventions which are to be encouraged in appropriate places, but which will take time to come to maturity and do not offset the effect of the carbon we are producing now. [Note: In the Diocese of Ely there is more farmland on peat soils than in any other diocese. This farming releases a particularly high level of carbon. The Diocese will explore whether investing in projects that protect our local peat might be the best way of offsetting emissions, significantly superior to tree planting.]
Page last updated: Tuesday 30th May 2023 5:32 AM
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