Church Commissioners’ written answers: carbon reduction, cashless donations, South Sudan, Uganda, lead theft, graveyard records

On 18th March 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered seven written questions from Jim Shannon MP, on carbon reduction, cashless donations, South Sudan, Uganda, lead theft and graveyard records:

Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29873 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to use its investments to support business transitioning to a low carbon economy.

Andrew Selous: As responsible investors and members of the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, the Church Commissioners regard climate change as a vital issue and have pledged to transition their investment to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions portfolio by 2050. They will set their first interim emissions reduction target as members of the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance in 2020 and will work with their public equities managers to achieve it.

The Church of England National Investing Bodies (NIBs), are guided by the commitments made by the NIBs in July 2018 General Synod debate on climate change and investment. Starting in 2020 the NIBs are committed to disinvest from companies that are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy. In a new commitment, the NIBs indicated that by 2023 they would disinvest from fossil fuel companies that are not prepared to align with the goal of the Paris Agreement.

The Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) is a global initiative, co-founded by the Church of England National Investing Bodies in 2017, to assess companies’ preparedness for the transition to a low carbon economy. It ended 2019 supported by investors with over $16 trillion of assets.

The Church of England Pension Board launched the FTSE TPI Climate Transition Index in January at the London Stock Exchange . The Index rewards those companies with public targets aligned to the Paris Agreement whilst significantly underweighting or excluding those that do not.

The new index embeds forward-looking climate data from TPI – namely the TPI carbon performance metric that assesses a company on its plans for alignment with the transition to a low carbon economy. Companies currently excluded from the index would be included if they set public emissions targets (covering all their emissions) aligned to the goals of the Paris Agreement. We believe it to be the first global index of its kind that will allow passive funds to play an active role in supporting the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Church is also part of Climate Action 100+ (‘CA100+’), which is an investor initiative seeking to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change, consistent with goal of the Paris Agreement to restrict warming to well below two degrees Celsius. CA100+ is supported by more than 370 investors with over $41 trillion of assets. The Commissioners were founding supporters, the Transition Pathway Initiative is one of the Climate Action100+ official data partners, and its assessments are used to benchmark companies.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29874 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, how the Church of England plans to deliver on the General Synod’s decision to make the Church carbon zero by 2030.

Andrew Selous: The Church of England is committed to reducing its own carbon footprint and is developing several strategies to deliver this, including across its 44,000 properties and schools.

The General Synod at its meeting in February 2020 committed the Church to report back in three years time on whether it could meet the ambitious target set by the Synod of decarbonising the Church by 2030.

One of the first steps has already started and many listed buildings have started exploring installing new renewable technology to improve their energy use. A good example is Gloucester Cathedral, a grade 1 listed building, which has managed to install solar panels on its roof.

The Church is working with A Rocha to recognise achievement by church buildings and dioceses with Eco-Church awards at either bronze, silver or gold standard.

A new initiative the Church has developed is an energy rating tool for church buildings, which calculates the energy consumption of the parish church. It takes into account factors including the type of power the parish uses, whether they are on ‘green’ tariffs, the size of the building and usage.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29875 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the declining use of cash throughout the UK, what steps the Church of England is taking to change the way it collects donations in parishes.

Andrew Selous: The Church recognised in 2017 the need to adapt to the major move away from cash towards contactless payments. Today a much larger, fast-evolving range of contactless solutions is available through the Church’s own Parish Buying service, with over 1,900 churches now having the means to accept payments or donations by card or mobile phone. The Church aims to have over half of its 16,000 churches able to take contactless payments and donations in the next three years. The Church of England in partnership with the Church in Wales is working through its ‘Parish Buying’ programme to negotiate competitive prices for churches. More information on that can be found at the ‘Parish Buying’ website.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29876 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress is being made on the Archbishop’s plans to make a joint visit to South Sudan with His Holiness the Pope.

Andrew Selous: The Archbishop of Canterbury remains committed to making a visit to South Sudan following the formation of the Transitional Government. Discussions are underway to assess opportunities for a joint visit together with His Holiness the Pope and a senior representative of the Church of Scotland.

Peace and security in South Sudan are of vital importance, and the Archbishop has been meeting with key regional figures such as President Museveni of Uganda and Special Envoy Kalonzo of Kenya to discuss this.

The Archbishop keeps in regular contact with Archbishop Justin Badi and the South Sudan Council of Churches leaders to discuss their priorities for the local church and how they can be best supported.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29877 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the outcome was of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent visit to Uganda to discuss the peace and security challenges facing the region.

Andrew Selous: During his recent visit to Uganda for the enthronement of the 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Archbishop of Canterbury was invited to meet with President Museveni.

The Archbishop of Canterbury paid tribute to President Museveni for hosting large numbers of refugees from South Sudan in Uganda and discussed regional politics, peace and security. The Archbishop also discussed the intention for the global Anglican Communion to plant 100 million trees globally over the next five years as part of its contribution to environmental protection.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29878 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to recent thefts of lead roofs and bells from churches in Yorkshire and Wiltshire, what steps the Church of England is taking to protect churches from thefts of lead and bells.

Andrew Selous: The Church of England has witnessed a steady increase in metal theft recently. Between 2018 and 2019, reports of thefts were up 25%. The rise is attributed to an increase in international metal prices. Additionally, significant thefts are being co-ordinated by organised criminals working in teams. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 had great success initially, but further work is necessary to update the law to reflect the organised nature of this crime.

Recent cases of theft have included the 291-year-old bell from Bremilham Church in Wiltshire, recognised as the smallest church in England. In North Yorkshire 60% of the lead roof was stolen from St Peter’s Church, Brafferton. This church had only just completed an extensive refurbishment and has now been left with a £80,000-£100,000 repair bill. Thefts are generally moving north and west along the major transport routes and while the additional funding from the Government to assist all religious buildings increase their security is welcome, it does not address the underlying causes of this sort of organised crime.

Church buildings are a community resource and are not just used by worshipers. All Parochial Church Councils are encouraged to take all measure they feel appropriate to deter potential thieves, such as using smart water and installing roof alarms. Many churches have found that by being open more frequently and welcoming people in, rather than only opening for services, this has helped reduce the risk of thefts.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 29879 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to use new technology to make its graveyard records available.

Andrew Selous: The Church of England is starting to map its thousands of graveyards over the next five years, with the first trials taking place in the Huddersfield area. This will enable for the first time a comprehensive database of British burial sites.

The Church of England project hopes to immortalise the tombs of millions of people buried, as well as those interred on unconsecrated land. Maps and photographs will be uploaded alongside burial records in a searchable database

The Church is grateful to Historic England for backing the project, which it has match-funded, and hopes that this will make its 35 million burial records, and the even larger number of memorials, available to the public through an integrated searchable map.