Recognise, declare or acknowledge an emergency in a way that engages your community and amplifies the need for leaders everywhere to act.
This is a critical step. Whether you ‘recognise’, ‘declare’ or ‘acknowledge’, the crucial part is making a clear, public and formal statement that communicates that your church or organisation understands the urgency of climate change and will not be silent in the face of injustice.
For your statement to have integrity, it also needs to include a commitment to future action. As part of your declaration, commit to a timeframe for making a plan of action to reduce emissions and have an impact.
If you’re already working through Eco Church or Eco-Congregation, you might find starting with Declare will be most beneficial for amplifying the need for action and building momentum for your existing work.
‘In November we held a Climate Sunday where we made
a statement of "climate emergency recognition" during the service. We see ourselves at the very beginning of a
journey [and] now hope to mobilise the whole church in
Gateway Church Leeds
About the Declare step
Is it really a climate emergency?As temperatures continue to rise, people living in poverty are already facing devastating consequences of our changing climate. Rains are less reliable and droughts, floods and storms are becoming more frequent and extreme. These changes are destroying farmland, spreading disease and pushing people back into poverty. For our global neighbours, this is already a very real emergency. In 2021, 195 countries came together to sign the Glasgow Climate Pact, committing to stop the global average temperature from increasing by more than 1.5°C, based on the average temperature before the industrial revolution, and to ‘phase down’ fossil fuel use. Temperatures have already climbed by 1.1°C and our emissions are still increasing year on year, which could lead to catastrophic impacts. Even 2°C of warming could mean 2.9 billion people being exposed to deadly extreme-heat events every five years. To limit warming to 1.5°C we now need to cut emissions by between eight and 15 per cent every year. Without an urgent change of direction, we are heading towards a climate with more severe droughts, storms, heatwaves, floods and wildfires, and towards a world where pandemics and biodiversity collapse are far more likely. This is now a climate emergency.
Why should we get involved – as Christians and churches?As Christians, we know ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1). We’re called to act justly and to love our neighbours. This is God’s good creation, but the way we’ve exploited it is already pushing people back into poverty and risks the collapse of society as we know it. As churches and Christians in the UK facing the climate emergency, might we have been called for such a time as this? Together, we can speak up, live prophetically and protect the lives of millions of people already at risk from this crisis. Like you, we believe the church is God's Plan A for his mission in this world. We can play a crucial role in society, serving our communities and speaking up for justice. We, the church, are the largest community organisation on the planet and together, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can play a crucial role.
What kind of organisations can do this?We've designed this Toolkit to serve local churches in the UK. As more and more of us as churches recognise the emergency and make a plan for action, we'll create a real momentum for change. But this Toolkit isn't just for churches: the key steps of Prepare, Declare and Impact have been designed with flexibility in mind. No matter the size, shape or structure of your organisation, you should be able to take this Toolkit and adapt it for your own situation, whether you are a church network, denomination, diocese, church school, theological college or Christian organisation. Collectively, as the people of God, we can speak up and take action on this global crisis together.
How do I get started?Tackling the climate emergency can't be done alone. We want to support you along this journey and would encourage you to build a team within your church, school or organisation to help too. If you’ve already downloaded the Toolkit, that is a brilliant start. As a next step, we would suggest you talk with your church or organisation leadership and gather a team of people willing to work on this with you. Then head back to the introduction and discuss with your team where to go from here.
How does this relate to other initiatives we are involved with?The Toolkit is designed to help organisations make a step change in their response to the climate emergency. Churches that already have sustainability plans, or are pursuing Eco Church or Eco-Congregation awards, can incorporate declaring an emergency into this process. Declaring an emergency and making a clear action plan should help focus attention on the crucial issue of lowering emissions. This Toolkit also aims to help mobilise individual Christians to influence their households, local communities and workplaces. This isn’t just about the sustainability of Christian communities: it’s about inspiring each other to be a clarion call for change wherever God has put us.
Can we reach zero emissions?The exact target you set should be determined by your governing body. In order to recognise the climate emergency in a meaningful way, the target will need to be substantial and the timescale urgent. It could mean emissions reductions, or it could be more focused on moving your finances, empowering your congregation or partnering with the community. As a guide, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland share an ambitious goal of ‘net zero’ by 2030, and the UK Government has pledged to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.
What does it mean to 'adapt' to the changing climate?Climate change is already causing significant issues globally, but this is now increasingly being felt in the UK. A realistic action plan needs urgently to reduce our contribution to potentially catastrophic climate change, but also to prepare for further changes in the coming years as the emissions of previous decades take effect. Adaptation measures could include: Making sure climate change impacts are on your organisation’s risk register. Considering the risk of flooding at your church building, overheating in the summer, over-topping of the gutters during extreme rainfall, and stonework damage due to the foundations swelling and shrinking. Can you take practical actions to reduce the impact, such as moving your fusebox higher up? This guidance may help. Making plans to respond with compassion and hope to rising climate anxiety. Arranging some community conversations about climate resilience. Consider how your local community might be affected by: - higher temperatures - more extreme weather conditions, including flooding - a rise in food prices or food-chain problems - migration following environmental disaster - power shortages/energy insecurity. Adaptation planning is good stewardship of resources. Research also shows that naming these issues now can help people acknowledge the need to take action.
Download the full toolkit for more details on each step and the tools you’ll need along the way.