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Churches make progress towards net zero buildings

One in 14 Church of England churches are now reporting net zero carbon emissions.

A church covered in snow.

 The Church of All Saints in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire is a Grade I listed building dating from the 12th Century. There are big differences in the energy use of rural and urban churches. (Photo: EdwardKeene via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Date published

A new report on the Church of England's energy use says the number of churches achieving net zero or lower carbon emissions grew to 7% between 2019 and 2020.

The Church of England publishes annual reports on its Energy Footprint as part of a wide-ranging programme to ensure that the Church of England achieves net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The latest report,  entitled Energy Footprint Toolkit 2020,  compiled data on 3,600 churches.

The report's authors acknowledged that the findings were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer churches reporting on their energy use and many churches and church buildings hardly being used. 

Renewable energy tariffs

The report found that of those with net zero carbon, just under 80% were using 100% renewable electricity tariffs, while just over 20% suggested that no energy had been used in the building at all.

Dr John Thompson, Bishop of Selby and chair of the Net Zero Carbon Sub-committee group, said: “The rise in numbers of net zero churches reflects that more and more parishes are utilising pre-approved renewable suppliers and addressing the big and small measures which can be taken to reduce carbon impacts."

It is estimated that the total net carbon footprint for the Church of England’s church buildings (based on energy use alone) in 2020 was around 137,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent or tCO2e. The estimates for the total figures were extrapolated from the Toolkit data.

Churches in urban parishes have a much larger carbon footprint than those in rural parishes and the top 12% of church buildings by size account for almost a third of the carbon footprint for all churches.

The Energy Footprint report also looked at 500 other buildings, such as church halls. Of these, 4% were considered to have achieved net zero carbon or less - but the report notes that because of the lack of information on such buildings, this figure can only be an estimate.

Consultation on Roadmap to 2030

The Church of England has also launched a consultation on how central and diocesan structures can support parishes and schools in achieving net zero by 2030. The consultation closes at 28 February 2022.