Guardians of Creation

Launched in December 2020, Guardians of Creation is a collaborative project that aims to help the Catholic community in England and Wales work towards a carbon-neutral and more sustainable future, inspired by the teachings of Laudato Si’.

During 2020 there was a great deal of discussion nationally about ‘net-zero’ targets and ‘carbon neutrality’. It became clear that a conversation was needed as to what this meant to the Catholic Church and how to go about addressing the issues raised. In response, the Guardians of Creation project was developed over the course by representatives from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, CAFOD, the Laudato Si’ Movement, St Mary’s University and the Diocese of Salford.

Launched in December 2020, Guardians of Creation is a collaborative project that aims to help the Catholic community in England and Wales work towards a carbon-neutral and more sustainable future, inspired by the teachings of Laudato Si’.

In 2019, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales set out their commitment to respond to the ecological crisis in their statement Guardians of God’s Creation. In this document, they pledged to avoid the worst consequences of ecological crisis by immediately engaging on what they described as the ‘long path to renewal’.

Decarbonisation

Now, the Guardians of Creation project is helping to turn the Bishops’ objectives into concrete action, developing a body of guidance that can be implemented by dioceses in the UK to help them make decisions about their decarbonisation journey. The team regularly consult with dioceses to ensure that the work they produce is as relevant as possible to everyone – listening to as wide a group as possible.

Diocesan staff, environmental leads and groups, priests, religious, parishioners and school groups have all had something to say, and there has been wider involvement from team members in interfaith projects. Already there has been a huge amount of activity from the grassroots to the Vatican, and the support the team has received has been phenomenal, for which they are grateful.

The first report produced, ‘Guidance on developing strategy for decarbonising Catholic diocesan building stocks’, was issued in June 2021 to help diocesan teams think through the challenges of decarbonisation for their buildings. The writing and discussion of this report has raised several questions that the team are working on. In some cases, they have been able to make suggestions quickly, but for more fundamental questions it is still a work-in-progress. This is, of course, precisely what the project is for. The process of decarbonising a diocese is not simple, and finding ways to integrate new ways of doing things will never be quick and easy, but by drawing on a wealth of experience the project is making a lot of progress.

Most of the resources produced are at a management level, but the consultation and implementation of this work extends to the whole diocesan family, and Guardians of Creation are working with the Ecological Conversion Group on their parish facing work. The first round of resources will be ready in Autumn 2021 and following a year of trial and review an updated set will be released in Autumn 2022.

Collaboration

The research project itself is a collaborative effort by the Diocese of Salford, St Mary’s University and the Laudato Si’ Research Institute. The project team also works with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at The University of Manchester, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Diocesan Environmental Leads, Interdiocesan Fuel Management, the Ecological Conversion Group, CAFOD, the Jesuits in Britain, the Laudato Si’ Movement and Churchmarketplace amongst others.

What’s next?

Starting with its launch back in December 2020, the Guardians of Creation project will continue until Autumn 2022. During the lifetime of this project, guidance will continue being issued on practical elements of sustainable change, like carbon accounting and environmental management within a diocese, social and theological aspects of sustainability in the Catholic Church and practical environmental action within schools.

Parish-facing resources will also be available from the Ecological Conversion Group from Autumn 2021, and the team are hoping to have a lot of the heavy lifting done by COP26.

There will be a lot to do in 2022, so the team are always interested to receive offers of help or ideas. Do contact them at: decarbonisation@dioceseofsalford.org.uk

If you are interested in reading guidance on developing strategy for decarbonising Catholic diocesan building stocks, you can download a PDF provided by St Mary’s.

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