Churches have a vital role to play in accelerating the transition to net zero emissions, according to ‘Church Investment in Climate Solutions: Financing a Liveable Future’ – a new report from Operation Noah relevant to climate campaigners and faith investors.
Operation Noah has released a report that makes recommendations on ways to reduce and store carbon emissions to one of the country’s largest landowners, the Church of England, which owns approximately 0.5% of the UK’s land. The report is also relevant to other UK Churches and Christian groups, estimated to own another 0.5% of the UK’s land.
This is a very different report in some ways, as it is probable that we shall not be able to meet in person for our AGM as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions. Our work at Operation Noah is able to continue much as normal, with all staff members working from home, and we do not anticipate any significant impact on our finances for the current year. Despite the postponement of the COP26 and the cancellation of many meetings, 2020 remains crucial for progress on addressing the climate crisis. In looking back over last year, there are a number of things that I need to highlight about Operation Noah’s year work during 2019.
Summary of activities:
In early February 2019 ON supporter Alex Mabbs and board member Nicky Bull made their way to Tunbridge Well URC for ‘Faith, Hope and Action in a Changing Climate’, an evening with Greg Clark MP and Dr Ruth Valerio of Tearfund. It was an excellent event, which had attracted a very large audience from the local area. Just over a week later, Operation Noah trustees Darrell Hannah and Holly Petersen travelled to Bristol to take part in the Festival of Transformation event, which explored how Christians can respond and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. During the event Darrell and Holly had an opportunity to address attendees and spent time highlighting the relationship between climate change and other development goals – the fact that tackling climate change is a vital factor when considering how to achieve goals such as reducing poverty and addressing health difficulties. They were able to outline the exciting role that fossil fuel divestment plays in shifting society towards a fossil free future.
Also in February Operation Noah co-organised a day conference in London with CAFOD, the Global Catholic Climate Movement and other partners to bring together Catholic religious communities to discuss the issue of fossil fuel divestment. Sixty-five people from more than 20 Catholic religious communities attended what was the first event of its kind in the UK. It sought to encourage Catholic institutions from England and Wales to join future divestment announcements coordinated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
In March we celebrated the announcement of the United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire to divest from fossil fuels. Also in March Nicky Bull attended a Guardian Live event with Christiana Figueres (former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and now Convenor of Mission 2020), Amanda Mukwashi (Chief Executive of Christian Aid) and Joanna Haigh (Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Director of the Grantham Institute). They brought their quite different perspectives in order to give an assessment of where we are currently placed in the fight against climate change.
In April eight local churches joined the United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire in the year’s Easter Declaration and pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Also in April, Isaac Harvey, a member of URC Youth and award-winning vlogger who edits videos using his feet, released a short film urging the United Reformed Church to divest from fossil fuels. The film featured ON’s Bright Now Campaign Manager, James Buchanan.
In June Operation Noah’s AGM and Supporters’ Day, with the title ‘Climate Emergency: A Christian Response of Faith, Hope and Urgency’, was held at the CAFOD offices, where we welcomed Hannah Malcolm, winner of the Church Times’Theology Slam as our keynote speaker. And an interactive map showing divested churches was launched on the Bright Now website.
In July Beulah United Reformed Church in Cardiff became the first church in Wales to commit to divest from fossil fuels, and the Methodist conference declared a climate emergency and called on the UK to achieve net zero emissions well before 2050.
At the end of August Operation Noah had a joint stall at Greenbelt Festival with our friends at Green Christian. Together with partners across the climate movement, we engaged with festival goers on how Christians can respond to the climate emergency.
In SeptemberOperation Noah supporters, board members and staff members joined the striking students on the streets of UK cities. The global climate strike is believed to have been the largest climate protest in history.
In October, the warmest October on record according to the EU’s climate monitoring service, activists from groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Christian Climate Action and Faith for the Climate continued to protest for urgent government response on the escalating climate and ecological emergency. Also in October, the United Reformed Church Synod of Wales decided to end investments in fossil fuel companies. A Synod meeting on Saturday 19 October passed a resolution on divestment proposed by members of Beulah URC in Cardiff, which was the first local church in Wales to divest. And our Bright Now Campaign Manager, James Buchanan, and trustee, Louisa Poole, ran a stall at the Association of Provincial Bursars (APB) Conference in Hertfordshire.
In December Ivybridge Methodist Church in Devon committed to end its investments in fossil fuels, becoming the first local Methodist church in the UK to divest. Also in December, and along with over sixty other leaders working on the climate crisis, Operation Noah signed a letter to Fatih Birol, CEO of the International Energy Association (IEA), calling on the IEA to publish a central scenario that would limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, after it had omitted such a scenario in the 2019 World Energy Outlook (WEO).
We continue to send representatives from the ON board to the meetings of the Faith for the Climate Network, which provides a very useful forum where we can meet and discuss with people from a range of organisations whose focus is on mobilising all the faith communities on climate change. The Network now has staff and a website (https://www.faithfortheclimate.org.uk/).
We are grateful to the Passionists, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Gibbs Trust, the Columbans, and E M Ellis for the grant funding and major donations we received from them during 2019. We also continue to be very fortunate in having regular donor supporters who give to the unrestricted funds that are needed to cover the ongoing running costs of Operation Noah.
Lastly, and most importantly, there are some very important thank-yous this year: Ruth Jarman, a founder member of the Operation Noah board, stood down from the board of trustees during 2019 in order to take up a post as Operation Noah’s Administrator, helping out in the office to make sure that our administration runs smoothly and that requests for resources are responded to promptly and dealing with all incoming enquiries. Following Richard Collett-White’s departure in March 2019 Britta Graham-Hyde was recruited to take over the communications work. She was with us for a year and in February 2020 Caroline Harmon was appointed as Operation Noah’s Communications Officer. During late 2019, we recruited Helena Ritter to the role of Bright Now Campaign Officer and when she left to take up a post with Hope For The Future, we were very pleased that Bokani Tshidzu was able to take over this role and she is now working four days a week to support James Buchanan.
Many thanks to all of my fellow board members who continued to work extremely hard throughout 2019: I would particularly like to add thanks to Reggie Norton who retired during 2019 having been a member of the board throughout Operation Noah’s existence; Sr Louisa Poole, who has retired this year having also been a founder member of the board; and Jean Leston, who is stepping down from the board this year but who has generously assured us that she will continue to be available to represent Operation Noah on the steering committee for the Climate Sunday project. I should also like to thank Dr Martin Poulsom, who has continued to be responsible for oversight of the Bright Now campaign; Holly Petersen and Nick Jones whom we welcomed as elected members of the board last year; our Treasurer, David Miller, who works tirelessly throughout the year; and Revd Darrell Hannah, who acted as Vice-Chair throughout 2019 and will be taking over as Chair of Trustees from this month.
This annual report was presented by Nicky Bull, Chair of Operation Noah, at our AGM on 29 June in London.
2018 now seems rather a long time ago and although it can be useful to look back we are much more about looking forward, especially at this crucial time for the planet. Nevertheless there are things that I need to highlight about Operation Noah’s year 2018.