Archbishop tells Church to help save the planet with green policies

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THE CHURCH of England is embarking on a green revolution, rolling out an eco-friendly policy under which organic bread and wine will be served for Holy Communion, clergy will recycle waste products and fair trade products will be sold at fetes.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will set out his vision of a greener world at a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England later this month that will challenge Britain to tackle global warming.

In a discussion document being circulated among Synod members, the Church of England says that the world's climate is close to a "tipping point". The Church warns: "The sudden changes that would occur in weather systems, the fertility of the soil, the water and the world of living creatures if this tipping point were reached could be devastating." It points out that even if "ecological devastation" is not on the horizon "it has to be realised that growth without limit has to be curtailed".

The report, entitled Sharing God's Planet, argues: "Furthermore, the injustices spawned by massive growth already exist. Two-thirds of the world does not have enough to eat while the other third is trying to lose weight."

Dr Williams will introduce the report that also backs the widespread claim that industrialisation has damaged the environment by global warming. He recommends that Christians adopt "sustainable consumption", recognising their duty "to celebrate and care for every part of God's creation".

The Synod will debate the issue on 17 February, the day after the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gases comes into force. The Church is critical of countries such as the United States which have dragged their feet over the protocol.

In a second discussion document on the environmental debate, the Synod is asked to recognise that Kyoto is not enough. "It has taken far too long to be ratified as each country fights for its own interests (the US is notable among countries which have declined to sign); its targets fall very far short of what is necessary."

At the same time, Christians will be asked to praise the work of the Body Shop which is described as a "brave exception" for getting people to consider the ethics of their shopping choices.

The Synod will also be asked to support the principle of introducing a system of quotas for CO2 emissions that take account of a country's size of population rather than its industrial strength.

But the Church of England will begin its own campaign by introducing eco-friendly policies in its churches. Among practical ideas for local churches are schemes such as recycling, car pooling and selling fairly traded products at church fetes. Clergy will also be encouraged to use natural materials in worship such as organic bread and wine. In his foreword to Sharing God's Planet, Dr Williams calls on each parish to undertake an "ecological audit". He adds: "Such local internal responses are vital if our voice as a church is to have integrity."

The Synod has not debated the environment since 1992 and the only other debate took place in 1986. The discussion document adds: "A Synod debate on the environment is timely. There is increasing awareness of the urgent need to address the developing ecological crisis. It is politically opportune as one of the Government's declared priorities for its current presidency of the G8 is climate change and that concern will be carried into its priorities for its chairing of the European Union."