Zero Carbon Quakers?

Are you ready join with Friends sharing our journey towards zero carbon living in a zero carbon society? About 100 have already signed up for this project, including 11 volunteers for the steering group.

In October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. It brought a stark message: warming of 1.5-2°C would pose a much greater risk to life on Earth than we had previously imagined. It would include Arctic and Antarctic melting with sea level rise of 6-9m, accelerating loss of biodiversity, and a sharp increase in human  suffering and mortality through heatwaves, disruption of food and water supplies, increased prevalence of diseases, and the mass migration resulting from all of these.

We are already close to the ‘budget’ – the total of CO2 emissions over the last 150 years or so – that would result in warming of 1.5°C. The IPCC communicates in terms of risk, and essentially it says that if we carry on with current global emissions until 2030 (i.e. 12 years since the report was released) we will have a 50% chance of passing the threshold that would commit us to 1.5°C of warming.  They offer scenarios that offer a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°C through a 45% cut in global emissions by 2030, reaching net zero by 2040-2060. Reductions of this level would require a multi-systems transformation covering law, markets, technology, governance, social structure, culture and much more.

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) was established by the 2008 Climate Act to advise the Government on climate targets and strategy. It published a report in early May 2019 responding to the updated science. It says that the UK should aim for net zero emissions of CO­2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050 – but the CCC portrays this as a way for the UK to maintain its leadership in a global effort to limit warming to ‘well below 2°C’ rather than below 1.5°C. Britain would be going faster than other countries, because of our greater responsibility for historical emissions and capacity for emission reduction.

Extinction Rebellion calls for net zero in the UK by 2025. If this were part of a global effort to reach net zero by 2030, it would give us a better chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It is physically possible, but only if we approach climate change as a real emergency that changes everything. It could be an inspiring, exhilarating journey. It would also require a willingness to tolerate inconvenience and discomfort, and a capacity to cope with some people losing a lot while others benefit. Many kinds of jobs would be lost, while new areas of work would be created. It would probable result in a much healthier and fitter population through adopting a largely plant-based diet and abandoning cars. Some people would probably die earlier, while others would live longer.

Friends of the Earth and the Liberal Democrats call for net zero by 2045; and the Green Party has long held a target of 2030, which is also the timeframe used by the Centre for Alternative Technology in developing its ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ scenarios.

Whether the timescale is five or thirty years, we will have to more or less eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system and make deep reductions in industrial emissions – especially from the metals, cement and chemicals industries. We will have to radically change land use from pasture to woodland and make deep reductions in populations of ruminant animals (cattle, sheep and goats). A later target would give time for the development and deployment of more renewable resources, for a shift to electric cars and for insulation of much of the UK housing stock. It would even be possible to maintain some aviation using biomass fuels or possibly batteries. Achieving net zero by 2030 or earlier would mean largely abandoning cars, flying, meat and dairy. We would also have to live in much colder homes. There would probably be a transformation in the world of work too, moving to a much shorter working week and lower earnings, combined with a reduction in material production and consumption.

Where are Quakers in this picture? How are we led to engage in system change and self-change? In 2011 Quakers in Britain committed to becoming a ‘low carbon, sustainable community’.  Quakers have been at the heart of many of the major efforts including Extinction Rebellion, the Transition movement, local government declarations of climate emergency, anti-fracking actions and more. Many Friends have made deep changes in the way they live. But we have also been aware of the need to make this a joyous, empowering journey, and to be careful of blame and guilt. In our Yearly Meeting 2011 Minute 36 we reminded ourselves that Friends should ‘keep in their hearts that this action must flow from nowhere but love.’

There is no one right way of working for change. Some progress will come through top-down actions by government, some through innovation in technology in behaviour, some through communities and networks of people taking and sharing responsibility.

The ‘Zero Carbon Quakers?’ project aims to develop a community of Friends supporting each other on our journey through listening, conversation and worship together. We will be formed of local face-to-face groups and national/international online groups and will probably experiment with well-tried models such as Carbon Conversations and the Transition Leicester Footpaths process. We will provide spaces for holding feelings, and sharing information, dilemmas and progress in action – in our own lives, our Meetings and the wider community.

Sign up to the Living Witness e-mail list for news about the project and how to be involved.

5 thoughts on “Zero Carbon Quakers?”

  1. I am inspired and encouraged by this post and I am looking forward to the Zero Carbon Quaker project getting off the ground. Working and sharing together through our Friends network we can transform ourselves spiritually and practically to live without producing harmful carbon.

  2. Yes i’m interested to be part of this.
    Living in zerocarbonhouse Birmingham, I have resigned my day job to join with XR, Positive Deep Adaptation. I would like to deliver the Work that Reconnects (Joanna Macy).
    I’m a member of Cotteridge Meeting.

  3. Jai Jagat 2020
    Social justice
    Food security

    Vegan and plant-based diets use less resources

    Food (and land) security is becoming a major issue. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one in nine people are chronically undernourished. With the world’s population expected to increase from 7 billion to reach 9-11 billion by 2050, one of the most urgent questions we now face is how we, as a species, will feed ourselves in the 21st century.

    The Earth has only a limited area of viable agricultural land; how this land is used is central to our ability to feed the world. This is particularly important given how desertification and other ecological issues brought on by climate change continue to reduce the quantity and the quality of the world’s arable land.
    The global contribution of animal farming to GHG emissions is agreed to be at least 14.5% – more than emissions from all transport combined.

    Jai Jagat 2020 UK are calling support new use of our land in the UK as advocated in the reports: Go Green: Solutions for the Farm of the Future: ( and the RSA report: Our Future in the Land:

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