Striving for an eco Assembly

David Bradwell
Co-opted Staff, Writer, Church of Scotland

There is a tension between the environmental commitment of Churches and hosting a major international conference.

The churches in Europe are increasingly aware of their responsibility to care for God’s creation, including reducing carbon footprints, using fewer natural resources and caring for diversity and ecosystems.

There are strong links to this green agenda and the message from Rt Rev. Julio Murray to the Assembly on 3 July: “the concept of ‘good living’ in contrast to ‘living well’ as we seek an “economy of efficiency”.

The challenge for CEC is that Assemblies are costly events.

Travel for around 400 participants, electricity, and reams and reams of paper; there are serious questions that need to be addressed about how a green churches can be when hosting such big events.

To be true to the Old Testament imperative to care for creation it is important that environmental management is considered during the Assembly planning process.

Loving our neighbour is also a critical commandment in this regard, as Churches in industrialised countries recognise that those who suffer from the worst effects of climate change (such as drought or rising sea levels) are our neighbours who have often done least to contribute to carbon emissions and are least able to adapt and survive.

To this end the Assembly strove to be green; here are four practical examples:

– Reducing paper.  When registering, each participant was given the option of being paperless during the Assembly, and everything is printed on recycled paper.

– Meals.  All the meals served at the Assembly have a vegetarian option as standard, as meat production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  The Friday evening meal was meat-free.

– Recycling.  The Assembly tote bags, the plastic water beakers, the notepads and pens provided to all participants are made from recycled materials.  The Assembly venues (the RaM Coliseum and Helia Hotel) both have their own environmental policies.

– Travel emissions compensation.  Each participant was warmly invited to donate €15 towards an ecumenical project in Hungary to plant fruit trees.

Seventy church parks, gardens and areas of land have been identified for planting, which will be done in co-operation with the Plant Diversity Centre, an institute supported by the Hungarian Government.

Delegates and participants can donate by cash at the Assembly or through bank transfer:

Name : Commission Eglise et Société de la CEC,
Address : Rue Joseph II 174 1000 Bruxelles – BELGIUM
IBAN : BE43 2100 9891 5501
Communication: Budapest – CO2 compensation

This project, which works with local churches, is an opportunity to compensate in a small way for the environmental impact of the Assembly.

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