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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 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.

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.

To support dioceses in their task, the Guardians of Creation Project has 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 five reports that offer guidance and analysis. Each of our five reports deals with a separate element of the diocesan response to the ecological crisis: carbon accounting in Catholic dioceses, strategy for decarbonising the built environment in Catholic dioceses, behaviour change in Catholic dioceses and parishes, and two reports dedicated to different aspects of responding to the ecological crisis through teaching, learning and management in Catholic schools.

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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 soon

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

Developed over the course of a one-year multiple site case study of eight schools and drawing on evidence given by 83 interviewees, this report introduces a model for understanding and facilitating responses to the ecological crisis in Catholic schools. The report begins by exploring the barriers that inhibit Catholic schools’ responses to the ecological crisis, before introducing its model for change, the Caring for Creation model

The Caring for Creation model describes the phases that Catholic schools in England and Wales pass through in their development of a comprehensive, or whole-school, response to the ecological crisis. Readers who are familiar with Catholic education institutions should be able to identify where their institution is in its progression through the Caring for Creation model, and the consequent actions it should take to develop further.

Read the full report

Read an overview of the Caring for Creation model

Please contact us if you need an accessible version of the PDF.

Developed through a one-year pilot programme of teaching and learning delivered to 225 Key Stage 3 students, this Laudato Si’ Champions toolkit and accompanying report offer educators a comprehensive template for engaging students in the ecological crisis through Catholic education. The toolkit itself gives educators everything they need to conduct six lessons, at Key Stage 3 level, exploring the intersection of Catholicism and ecology.

The toolkit is supported by a report, which draws on evidence from a survey of 677 Key Stage 3 students and interviews with 83 participants. The report explores young people’s experiences, perceptions and beliefs regarding the ecological crisis in depth. The data is used to investigate the development in young people’s relationship to the ecological crisis as they participate in the Laudato Si’ Champions programme, revealing a clear and conclusive set of rationales for implementing the Laudato Si’ Champions Toolkit in any Catholic school.

Read the full report

Read the guidance for teachers

Please contact us if you need an accessible version of the PDF.

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.

Report coming soon

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