The Guardians of Creation Project is an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research programme investigating the technical, sociological, organisational, and theological paths to sustainable and ecologically sensitive change in the Catholic Church. The project offers guidance on many aspects of how faith-based organisations can respond to the ecological crisis and has a special focus on Catholic diocesan decarbonisation.
The project was first developed to support the ecological objectives of Catholic bishops in the UK and across the Global North. In 2015, Pope Francis published his landmark encyclical Laudato si’, calling on all people of goodwill worldwide to respond to the ‘cry of the earth’. In 2019, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales set out its commitment to avoiding the worst consequences of the ecological crisis in their statement Guardians of God’s Creation, from which this project took its name. In 2022, the Bishops’ Conference reviewed and updated its 2002 statement, The Call of Creation, which emphasised the responsibility of England and Wales, and all rich countries, to contribute to limiting the effects of climate breakdown by participating in the energy transition. Then, in the same year, the Bishops’ Conference passed a resolution, asking that all Catholic dioceses in England and Wales establish a methodology for carbon accounting, and declare their targets for decarbonisation. In that resolution, the bishops invited all dioceses to draw on the work of the Guardians of Creation Project as they set out on the road to decarbonisation.
We have produced a systematic framework for decarbonising the Catholic Church in the UK. Despite its development in the UK, the framework has applicability to faith-based organisations anywhere in the world, especially organisations looking to translate Laudato si’ into practical action. We present the framework as a suite of seven reports and some supplementary materials, each dealing with a separate aspect of diocesan decarbonisation.
Guidance on developing strategy for decarbonising Catholic diocesan building stocks
Developed in consultation with 15 experts in decarbonisation and faith-based organisations, this report provides a process model for developing a diocesan decarbonisation strategy, with a specific focus on the diocesan built environment. It was created with the UK context in mind, but has applicability to dioceses all around the world.
The process we advocate is methodical and cyclical, the elements of which emerged as a consensus among our diverse panels of expert contributors. Thanks to this consensus, we believe that this process may represent aspects of ‘best practice’ for decarbonisation strategy formulation and implementation in Catholic dioceses. Our report is divided into two sections: the first part introduces the practical processes that a diocese can follow to develop a decarbonisation strategy, the second part introduces general principles that a diocese can apply whilst doing so, to achieve the best results.
Report coming Spring 2024.
Guidance on Catholic diocesan carbon accounting
Developed by a multidisciplinary team of academics and sustainability professionals over the course of one year, this guidance provides Catholic dioceses with the necessary understanding to begin accounting for their carbon emissions. It details a comprehensive step-by-step process that can be followed by any diocese. Each element of the process that we introduce is accompanied by an explanation of how to approach that element in a way that reflects the particular situation of the implementing diocese.
Following the resolution passed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in 2022, asking that all dioceses in England and Wales develop a decarbonisation target, this report will be especially useful to Catholic dioceses in England and Wales. Dioceses outside England and Wales will also find the process useful but should bear in mind that some of the institutional and legal specifics that this report refers to will differ in their national contexts.
Read the full report
Understanding Catholic parishioners’ responses to the ecological crisis
The aim of this report is to identify and understand the approaches and barriers to green behavioural change found among UK Catholics. Combining relevant literature with the qualitative data collected during a series of workshops with 31 participants, two expert roundtables with 25 participants, and survey data from 254 Catholic parishioners, this report offers a wide-ranging summary of the motivations, perceived difficulties, and conditions for embracing more sustainable lifestyles. Furthermore, this report discusses the current and the possible future roles of the Catholic Church in supporting green behavioural change among its members. The report concludes with a useful list of ecological actions which can be taken on a parish level.
Read full report
Resources from our partners
Environmental stewardship in places of worship
This practical guide from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester offers a series of decision trees to help people work out what they might need to do to decarbonise a place of worship.
Read the full report
Caring for our common home in the Church and beyond: theological foundations for a comprehensive decarbonisation strategy in the Catholic diocese
This theological report from the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford University, outlines how the concept of integral ecology as developed in Laudato Si’ can inform transformative responses to the ecological crisis in Catholic dioceses.
Read the full report
To see our resources for schools and educators, please see the Laudato Si’ Champions page.
The project is a partnership between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford, St Mary’s University, and the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford University. The partnership is also supported by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, CAFOD, the Jesuits in Britain, the European Climate Foundation, and others. The project has received funding from several partners, including the Community Lottery Fund, Electricity North West, and the Assumption Legacy Fund. Since the beginning of 2020, more than 100 experts on sustainability and faith-based organisations have contributed to or participated in the project.
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