Climate change task groups put words into action
At the most recent Synod meeting in July 2019, NSW ACT Synod agreed to tackle the church’s carbon emissions.
The proposal commits the church to developing “a Synod-wide Climate Action Strategy to reduce carbon emissions across all councils and agencies of the Church…”
Five task groups are now charged with looking at a different aspect of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
These five groups cover several different aspects of what it means for the Synod to address climate change, ranging from reducing our emissions to the mental health and pastoral care implications that stem from the threat of climate change. They represent a cross section of the Uniting Church.
While preventing the spread of COVID-19 means that these groups can no longer meet in person, their work is continuing online. While still relatively new, their work is well underway.
Synod Emissions Task Group
The Synod Emissions task group focuses on reducing emissions across the Synod, its agencies, boards and schools.
The task group says its current priority is cutting vehicle emissions. The group is currently working on a timeframe for the Synod to transition its vehicles so that all of them are electric.
Their next priority is addressing ‘standing’ emissions. This will require the task group to work out how the church can get the best environmental and economic outcomes in the short to medium term.
The Synod resolution does not include explicit targets for emissions reductions but these were part of the resolution’s appendices. The Task Group is considering recommending specific emissions reduction targets.
Advocacy Task Group
Coming up with a way to engage in advocacy work and promote the church’s work in this space is the task given to a task group that consists of communications professionals, activists, congregation members, and members of church agencies.
The task group aims of to develop a narrative for the church, keep the church informed about the strategy and inform members and congregations how they can get involved.
One of this task group’s initial focus points is encouraging congregations to advocate for their local councils to join or the Cities Power Partnership (CPP) program, or increase their commitment if they are involved. The CPP is an initiative of the Climate Council that encourages local government to make pledges and take action to reduce emissions in their operations and within council boundaries. The task group is mapping local council participation to help prioritise local congregations to engage. Strategies and a timeframe for that engagement process are yet to be determined.
While new laws banning group gatherings scuppered some initial meetings, the task group continues to meet online.
Congregational and Individual Emissions Task Group
Another task group focuses on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of Uniting Church congregations and Uniting Church members, families, and households.
The group works to promote and encourage congregations to reduce their carbon footprint. This includes supporting initiatives such as the Five Leaf Eco Awards, a non-competitive set of awards that recognises congregations that take environmental action, and provides a stepped participation process.·
This group is also collaborating with the Synod Emission Task Group to provide individuals and congregations with ways they can reduce carbon emissions on a larger scale.
Supporting School Strikes for Climate and other public action
One group facilitates Uniting Church involvement in the global climate strikes as expressed in the Synod resolution, which says that the Synod “Supports initiatives taken by young people in advocating for action on climate change, including the global climate strikes.”
The group’s membership is diverse, and draws from Uniting, climate activists, members of Christian Students Uniting (CSU), and local congregations.
The group has started working on developing the registration process for a Sydney event and other events across the Synod. While the COVID-19 response means that such gatherings will not be able to take place for some time, the task group continues to meet and work out ways that the church’s activism in this area may continue.
Climate Anxiety and Pastoral Care Task Group
The Climate Anxiety and Pastoral Care Task group are a group of environmental experts, mental health practitioners, and clergy. The group focuses on climate change’s mental health implications.
At the time of writing, the group has met several times, with its first task being to create a format for congregations looking to host conversations about climate anxiety.
Jessica Morthorpe is one of the Climate Anxiety and Pastoral Care Task Group’s members. She told Insights that working with this group has been “wonderful.”
“We all have different backgrounds, and several members are psychologists or counsellors, but we all have a passion for this space because of our own climate anxiety/grief or seeing others suffering from it,” she explained.
“It’s a rapidly growing issue at the moment, particularly after the fires, and people really need support and equipping in this area. We are doing our best to contribute to that.”