Church of England unveils plans to strengthen response to biodiversity crisis

The Church of England has unveiled proposals to strengthen its response to the biodiversity crisis as part of its wider climate plans.

The new Land and Nature Motion aims to bring biodiversity up the agenda so that it is given equal consideration with the Church’s net zero aims.

It comes ahead of a meeting later this month where the Church’s parliament will discuss the biodiversity agenda of its overall Environment Programme as well as racial justice, and Prayers of Love and Faith, which ask for God’s blessing for same-sex couples.

The General Synod voted in 2020 to establish a 2030 net zero target and later approved a “Route Map” on how to achieve it in 2022.

The motion also addresses the three main asset holdings of land and property owned by the Church at parish, diocese and national level.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher said: “This motion aims to raise that area of our Christian commitment to the care of God’s creation and to this single island planet home.”

In terms of parish land, he said there are around 17,500 acres of churchyards in England, which is around twice the size of Oxford.

The bishop said many local communities and parishes have already been working on ways to create a positive impact on biodiversity in the way they manage churchyards, including partnerships with local wildlife trusts, counting and recording species, and decisions around not mowing all areas of churchyards.

“If some parts of the churchyard are not mown, allowing the sward and particularly rare species of plants to grow up in flower, there’s a real interest from communities around that – if you do the correct and right interpretation, explaining what you’re wanting to do, combining that management with perhaps areas that are mown, particularly around recent graves,” he said.

“But my dream is that churchyards will be places of the living not just the dead.”

He said church and local communities “can answer this call straight away by counting species, planning mowing regimes, allowing plants to flower and joining the Eco-Church scheme”.

The bishop said the same goes for around 82,000 acres of farmland and 92,000 acres of sustainable forestry that Church commissioners have in the rural assets portfolio.

He said: “With this motion, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the Church’s responsibility to safeguarding God’s creation by adding commitments to be responsible stewards of the land to our existing net zero ambitions.

“The Church is also setting out clear commitments to be at the forefront of responsible investment and, in partnership with our tenants, responsible land ownership.

“I hope Synod will vote strongly in favour of this motion, and send a clear signal to those all around the country, and to Government, that responsible land stewardship is good for nature, good for business and good for people.”

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