Wednesday, February 27, 2008

AUS and NZ to join forces on climate change

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the governments of Australia and New Zealand have decided to form a new partnership to work on the challenges of climate change.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has met Mr Rudd and senior members of Federal Cabinet in Canberra today.

Mr Rudd says while the two countries have always worked well together in the past, he hopes the relationship can be strengthed in the future.

"We have an unprecedented opportunity to work closely and seamlessly, globally, in the international negotiations which will now take place between now and the end of the Bali roadmap which concludes at the Copenhagen conference at the end of 2009," he said.

Ms Clark says she is delighted by Australia's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

"It puts us on the same page and the work we must now do and the intense international diplomacy around reaching the post 2012 agreement," she said.

"It makes a huge difference to New Zealand to have Australia in and for us to be able to combine diplomatic effort and muscle in the international negotiations."

The two leaders also resolved to work more closely on promoting stability in the South Pacific.

ps I love the some of the comments under this story.


"We have an unprecedented opportunity to work closely and seamlessly, globally, in the international negotiations which will now take place between now and the end of the Bali roadmap which concludes at the Copenhagen conference at the end of 2009," he said.


We'll have a meeting, there'll be photos and maybe even biscuits afterwards.



The blind leading the blind :P

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tasmanian premier to target forestry

By Matthew Denholm
February 23, 2008
The Australian

TASMANIAN Premier Paul Lennon has flagged potential reform of the forestry industry in response to climate change, vowing not to squib on recommendations of the Garnaut review.

Mr Lennon, a long-time champion of Tasmania's controversial timber industry, said yesterday the Garnaut climate change review held challenges for forestry.

He insisted he would act on the economist's recommendations, even if they were tough on forestry.

The Premier discussed the issue with Ross Garnaut after he handed down his interim report to state and territory leaders on Thursday.

Mr Lennon said Professor Garnaut would visit Tasmania as part of his deliberations.

"The people of Australia and the people of Tasmania want governments to act on the report - full stop," Mr Lennon said.

The Premier said the Gunns pulp mill proposed for northern Tasmania, which initially will be heavily reliant on native forests and is yet to secure a final wood supply agreement, was not immune from the Garnaut process.

Conservationists claim logging of native forests, even when they are replaced with regrowth forests, is a major source of greenhouse gases.

The Wilderness Society points to global research showing a permanent loss of 40 per cent to 60 per cent of carbon stored in old forests when they are logged, burned and regrown.

The industry claims forestry reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Timber Communities Australia claims Tasmania's production forests save 4.7 million tonnes of emissions each year, the equivalent of emissions from two million cars.

Mr Lennon said he hoped the final Garnaut report would cut through such "claim and counter-claim".

"Some people will say that the forest industry will provide a great bank of carbon sequestration; others will say that it's responsible for emissions," Mr Lennon told ABC Radio.

"Well, let's get the facts on the table from an independent person - without fear or favour."

The Premier said he made a specific request to Professor Garnaut on Thursday to assess forestry's climate change impact as part of his "leadership" on the issue.

Forestry was already part of Professor Garnaut's brief. It was covered in his "issues paper one", which has already elicited a number of submissions, including from the Lennon Government.

Opposition Leader Will Hodgman accused Mr Lennon of being a "fraud" who had "distorted the truth" to hide the fact that hehad spent years ignoring climate change.

Professor Garnaut's issues paper urges discussion on potential changes to farming and forestry, including in rotation periods.

The paper suggests forestry may benefit from increased biomass power generation and the use of forests as carbon offsets.,23599,23260372-421,00.html

Using technology to address poverty and the environment

By Jeffrey D. Sachs
February 23, 2008

In early February, the United Sates National Academy of Engineering released a report on "Grand Challenges" for Engineering in the 21st Century." The goal is to focus attention on the potential of technology to help the world address poverty and environmental threats. The list includes potential breakthroughs such as low-cost solar power, safe disposal of carbon dioxide from power plants, nuclear fusion, new educational technologies, and the control of environmental side-effects from nitrogen fertilizers. The report, like the Gates Foundation's similar list of "Grand Challenges" in global health, highlights a new global priority: promoting advanced technologies for sustainable development.

We are used to thinking about global cooperation in fields such as monetary policy, disease control, or nuclear weapons proliferation. We are less accustomed to thinking of global cooperation to promote new technologies, such as clean energy, a malaria vaccine, or drought-resistant crops to help poor African farmers. By and large, we regard new technologies as something to be developed by businesses for the marketplace, not as opportunities for global problem solving.

Yet, given the enormous global pressures that we face, including vastly unequal incomes and massive environmental damage, we must find new technological solutions to our problems. There is no way, for example, to continue expanding the global use of energy safely unless we drastically alter how we produce electricity, power automobiles, and heat and cool our buildings. Current reliance on coal, natural gas, and petroleum, without regard for carbon dioxide emissions, is now simply too dangerous, because it is leading to climate changes that will spread diseases, destroy crops, produce more droughts and floods, and perhaps dramatically raise sea levels, thereby inundating coastal regions.

The National Academy of Engineering identified some possible answers. We can harness safe nuclear energy, lower the cost of solar power, or capture and safely store the carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels. Yet the technologies are not yet ready, and we can't simply wait for the market to deliver them, because they require complex changes in public policy to ensure that they are safe, reliable, and acceptable to the broad public. Moreover, there are no market incentives in place to induce private businesses to invest adequately in developing them.

Consider carbon capture and sequestration. The idea is that power plants and other large fossil-fuel users should capture the carbon dioxide and pump it into permanent underground storage sites, such as old oil fields. This will cost, say, $30 per ton of carbon dioxide that is stored, so businesses will need an incentive to do it. Moreover, public policies will have to promote the testing and improvement of this technology, especially when used at a large scale.

New kinds of power plants will have to be built to make carbon capture economical, new pipelines will have to be built to transport the carbon dioxide to storage sites, and new monitoring systems will have to be designed to control leaks. Likewise, new regulations will be needed to ensure compliance with safety procedures, and to assure public support. All of this will take time, costly investments, and lots of collaboration between scientists and engineers in universities, government laboratories, and private businesses.

Moreover, this kind of technology will be useful only if it is widely used, notably in China and India. This raises another challenge of technological innovation: We will need to support the transfer of proven technologies to poorer countries. If rich countries monopolize new technologies, the goal of worldwide use to solve worldwide problems will be defeated. Thus, technological developments should involve a collaborative international effort from the start.

All of this will require a new global approach to problem solving. We will need to embrace global goals and then establish scientific, engineering, and political processes to support their achievement. We will need to give new budgetary incentives to promote demonstration projects, and to support technology transfer. And we will have to engage major companies in a new way, giving them ample incentives and market rewards for success, without allowing them to hold a monopoly on successful technologies that should be widely adopted.

I believe that this new kind of global public-private partnership on technology development will be a major objective of international policy making in the coming years. Look for new global cooperative approaches to clean energy systems, medicines and vaccines, improved techniques for fish farming, drought-and-temperature resistant crop varieties, high-mileage automobiles, and low-cost irrigation techniques.

Rich countries should fund these efforts heavily, and they should be carried out in collaboration with poor countries and the private sector. Successful technological breakthroughs can provide stunning benefits for humanity. This will be an exciting time to be a scientist or engineer facing the challenges of sustainable development.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Climate change report exposes deep divisions

Chris Hammer
February 23, 2008
The Age

ROSS Garnaut's interim report on climate change has opened up divisions at both ends of the political spectrum.

On the left, the Greens are attacking the Government for not embracing the need for more ambitious greenhouse reduction targets, while on the right, backbenchers are expressing dissent from the Coalition's official position of keeping an open mind on targets.

The report, by Canberra's top adviser on climate change, suggests the Government's pre-election promise of a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 may be inadequate. Instead it suggests cuts of between 70% and 90% may be required.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong appeared to confirm in Senate estimates yesterday that the Government would not revise its 2050 target during this term of government.

When asked by The Age if this was the case, the minister's office said: "The Government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050 — the commitment we took to the last election."

Greens senator Christine Milne said: "They have now pig-headedly locked into a target that the whole scientific community realises was set in 2000 and is completely outdated."

But environmental groups remain broadly comfortable with the Government's stance.

Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry met ministers in Canberra yesterday, telling The Age afterwards: "We would urge the Government to have a close read of the report and not to close off any options."

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said: "I don't think 60% will stand the test of time and smart players in the market place will be factoring greater cuts in."

ACCC probing more 'green' ad claims

Mathew Murphy and Ruth Williams
February 23, 2008
The Age

AUSTRALIA's consumer watchdog is investigating more cases of potentially misleading "green" advertising.

Origin Energy, one of the companies pulled up by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for so-called greenwashing, has warned other businesses to "err on the side of caution" when spruiking their green credentials.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said more companies were being checked after the ACCC's recent actions against Saab, EnergyAustralia and Origin. It released guidelines this month explaining the Trade Practices Act as it applied to green marketing. "We are now starting to experience over-selling and under-delivering, and potentially misleading conduct," Mr Samuel said.

His concerns were this week echoed by Consumer group Choice and environmental author Clive Hamilton, who this week said that "green washing" was a "particularly obnoxious" form of marketing deception.

Origin agreed last year to withdraw television advertisements showing a spider living in the exhaust pipe of a retired car, an attempt to illustrate its claim that joining its GreenPower scheme was equivalent, in greenhouse gas emission terms, to not driving for two years.

The ACCC said the ads could mislead because they did not differentiate between the 20% and 100% GreenPower deals.

Energy Australia said it could "guarantee" its green power came from "100% renewable sources". But the sources were not accredited offset providers, so the ACCC said the offsets could not be guaranteed.

Origin spokesman Tony Wood said the "world of clean and green is really new and the rules are being worked out as we go. There really needs to be flexibility … we don't need rigid rules, they need to evolve as the industry evolves. We have virtually decided to stay away from the term carbon neutral. The ACCC takes a much more literal view of these terms than perhaps you or I would."

The ACCC is still pursuing Saab over newspaper and magazine ads it ran last year. Companies found guilty of greenwashing face fines of up to $1.1 million.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

UN environment group sets up climate neutral forum

Thu 21 Feb 2008
By Gerard Wynn

MONACO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a new online network on Thursday to help countries, cities and firms aiming to be "climate neutral" exchange ideas on ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Neutral Network will connect people around the world who have committed to become climate neutral by reducing and offsetting their emissions of the gases blamed for heating the planet, said Achim Steiner, head of UNEP.

"The idea is to share ideas," he said.

UNEP, which is hosting 154-nation climate talks in Monaco, aims to be climate neutral itself in 2008, with the whole United Nations due to follow.

Monaco said on Thursday it would become the fifth country to commit to carbon neutrality under the UNEP project, joining Costa Rica, Iceland, Norway and New Zealand.

Read more at:

Garnaut gets tough

Giles Parkinson
Business Spectator

Business people attending a Lowy Institute function in Sydney last night were presented with two troubling statistics.

The first was that the amount of coal set to be burned in power stations across the globe in the next 20 years will exceed all that burned since the first lump was incinerated in 1753.

The second statistic was that since the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1990, the rate of emissions growth across the globe has trebled.

The message from Ira Magaziner, a former advisor to President Clinton and chairman of the Clinton Climate Initiative, is that whatever targets are set to try and reduce carbon emissions, the most important thing is that these targets are actually met.

So if it was not already absolutely clear that Australian business would soon have to face up to the realities of a carbon-constrained economy, then Magaziner’s comments and the interim report presented yesterday to the Federal Government by Professor Ross Garnaut should shatter any remaining illusions.

After 10 years of denial, and a last-ditch and somewhat bizarre attempt by the Productivity Commission last month to suggest that climate change can’t be that bad, Garnaut has finally laid the challenge squarely on the table.

His report sweeps away three falsehoods peddled by the naysayers and embraced by a befuddled and compromised Howard administration: namely that mitigation was too hard, too costly and too futile.

The world, Garnaut says, is moving towards high risks of dangerous climate change more rapidly than has generally been understood.

Far from seeking to minimise the amount of carbon that must be extracted from the economy, Garnaut says the targets should be increased, possibly as high as 90 per cent by 2050, and strong interim targets introduced.

Where Howard's line was that Australia has more to lose by taking action, Garnaut asserts that the country has more to lose if doesn’t do anything.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Stages of Global Warming Denial

by Michael Graham Richard,
Gatineau, Canada 06.6.06

Stage 1. Global Warming doesn't exist. It's not happening.

We've all heard people claim as fact, without citing sources (or at least not credible ones), that "actually, the Earth is cooling" and such things.

Facts: Every year since 1917 has been warmer than 1917. Here's a report by NASA with this choice cut about record-breaking 2005: "Record warmth in 2005 is notable, because global temperature has not received any boost from a tropical El NiƱo this year."

Stage 2. Okay, it's happening, but humans are not causing it.

Here we have all the "sun getting brighter" and "natural warming cycle" theories. They are all real possibilities, but have been discarded by scientists who looked at the evidence and concluded that they were not the causes of the current warming of the thin atmosphere of our planet.

Facts: It's not the sun ("According to PMOD at the World Radiation Center there has been no increase in solar irradiance since at least 1978 when satellite observations began. This means that for the last thirty years, while the temperature has been rising fastest, the sun has shown no trend.") and it's not a natural cycle (if it was, it would be incredibly slower than what we're seeing now and it would still need a cause).

Here is some evidence of a scietific consensus:

"The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). [...] In its most recent assessment, IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities:

'Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations' IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. [...]

That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position. [...]

This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies.

Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.

Stage 3. Okay, humans are causing it, but there's nothing we can do about it, we can't go back to the stone age, it would ruin our economy, it's worse to act than not to act, etc.

Or in the words of the new anti-Kyoto Canadian "Environment" Minister Rona Ambrose: "that would mean that today we would have to take every train, plane and automobile off the streets of Canada. That is not realistic."

What do these people think Global Warming will do to the planetary economy? We can't look into the future and know exactly what the consequences would be, but what we can deduct doesn't sound good: Potentially millions of eco-refugees, disruptions in food supplies, heat waves and weird climate phenomenons, stronger hurricanes, flooded coastal areas, the possible cascading of species extinction (remember, animals can't turn on the air conditioning - when their environment changes rapidly, they can't artificially "adapt" like humans, and if the bottom of the food chain is affected, it will have effects on everything above), major changes in oceans, etc.

Acting now is clearly the cheaper and better choice and countries that took important steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, like Germany, are hardly "ruined". Some big businesses like insurance companies understand that, but a much broader consensus on action is needed among the powerful corporate players of the world.

The Apollo Alliance has been pushing a plan to create cleaner infrastructures and systems and eventually eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. The Chicago Climate Exchange has been doing really good things too. Many others, like the folks at Worldchanging, have been putting together a vision of a "bright green future", working on solutions that would actually stimulate the creation of a better tomorow and improve things on most if not all levels of society. There are lots of good ideas and solutions available right now. We've waited long enough. Lets act.

Stage 4. Okay, it is possible with technology, efficiency/conservation and smart planning to do something about it, but it's going to hurt the bottom line of "dirty" corporations.

Well, a pusher is never happy when an addict is trying to get rid of him, and the end of slavery hurt the bottom line of slave owners. But very few people will say that these aren't the right things to do.

Frankly, we can live with a few big companies making less money, especially considering the alternative. The stone age didn't end because there was no stones left, and we didn't keep blacksmiths in business forever after they weren't needed anymore. But even the Exxons and Shells of this world have a choice: they have huge resources and could - if they wanted to - become pioneers in clean technology and profitably survive the transition our society now has to go through. We're not talking about investing 1% of their benefits in clean technologies and doing massive PR campaigns; we're talking about a real commitment, something proportional to their scale. But lets not wait for them to move... If they don't, others will fill that role.

Conclusion: Global Warming is real and we have to deal with it. We can use this crisis as an opportunity to improve our society. The faster, the better.
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pigou or nopigou???

Arthur C. Pigou was an early 20th-century British economist, one of the fathers of welfare economics. He believed governments can shape policy for the better by raising taxes on bad things and subsidizing good ones i.e. "internalize the externalities".

Is a tax on products that harm the environment is a good idea or is the free market is the best method for solving the problem.

Pigou or nopigou??

In the view of the Pigou Club: raising pigovian taxes will lower the environmental damage done by the economy. A pigovian tax is a tax levied to correct the negative externalities (negative side effects) of a market activity. For example, putting a tax on oil.

The pigou club manifesto:

In the view of the Nopigou Club: the Pigou approach is just another form of central planning dressed up in free market terminology.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Prince Charles calls for greater EU efforts on climate change

Here are some quotes from Prince Charles, urging the European Parliament in Brussels to do more on climate change and saving the world's rainforests. (Note: full speech here)

"Determined and principled leadership has never been more needed. Surely this is just the moment in history for which the European Union was created"

"Can that moment not be captured before it slips lifeless from our grasp?"

"The doomsday clock of climate change is ticking ever faster towards midnight. We are simply not reacting quickly enough"

"We cannot be anything less than courageous and revolutionary in our approach to climate change. If we are not the result will most likely be catastrophe for all of us, but with the poorest in our world hit hardest of all."

"It is a task that calls for the biggest public, private and NGO partnership ever seen,"

On the world's tropical rain forest he said:

"I believe this to be a matter of the gravest urgency," he said. "We are destroying our planet's air conditioning system."


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Should Polar Bears be put on the endangered list?

Several conservation groups have filed a lawsuit to force the listing of the polar bear onto the endangered list.
"This is going to be the mother of all test cases," said Alison Rieser, a lawyer and ocean policy professor at the University of Hawaii.

"The legal question is whether the emissions of a proposed power plant can be tied to the cumulative effect of carbon dioxide, which is adversely affecting sea ice -- critical polar bear habitat."

In September, the U.S. Geological Survey released a set of studies that analyzed existing climate models. They presented increasingly compelling evidence that the top predator at the top of the world is doomed if the polar regions get warmer and sea ice continues to melt as forecast.
Its results suggested that the habitat of two-thirds of the bears would disappear by 2050.

Buffalo running

Please reduce your carbon emissions.
You can do this by:
  • Eating less meat
  • Driving less (e.g. walk for short trips or ride your bike on short to mid-range journeys)
  • Reduce unnecessary consumption (e.g. do you really NEED those new shoes or do you just WANT them?)
  • Recycling, repairing and reusing things

Comments are most welcome !!
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Friday, February 08, 2008

Mercury emissions debated in court

Court Again Overturns Controversial Bush Environment Rule

February 08, 2008

A federal appeals court Friday overturned a Bush administration plan for cutting mercury emissions from power plants, siding again with states and environmental groups in an ongoing legal battle over the administration's effort to write business friendly rules for the utility industry.

The decision is one of several rulings by the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, against Bush administration regulations that would have eased environmental requirements. Most prominently, the same court in 2006 struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that would have allowed coal-burning power plants more latitude to increase their output without installing pollution control devices.

"The Bush administration's track record in court is abysmal when it comes to environmental regulations," said Frank O'Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. "That's because they've illegally interpreted the law over and over again."

The latest setback for the administration comes over its effort to create an emissions trading market that would cut mercury emissions. Under the administration's plan, power plants starting in 2010 would be allowed to buy credits instead of actually cutting mercury emissions.

Coal-burning utilities such as American Electric Power Co. (AEP), Southern Co. (SO) and Duke Energy ( DUK) lobbied for the plan so they could have the flexibility to decide where on their systems mercury reductions would be cheapest.

Fourteen states and environmental groups sued, saying the Clean Air Act requires all plants to cut emissions of a toxic pollutant like mercury. They worried an emissions trading market would lead to "hot spots" of mercury around plants that bought credits instead of cutting emissions.

To create the market, the EPA had to reverse a Clinton administration finding that mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants is a "hazardous air pollutant" under the Clean Air Act.

That finding triggered the law's most stringent pollution reduction rules, potentially costing the utility industry billions of dollars over the next decade.

"These are the Cadillac of all emissions standards because the pollutants are so bad," said Jim Pew, an attorney for the environmental group EarthJustice who argued the mercury lawsuit before the D.C. circuit

The court said the administration didn't adequately justify its decision to reverse the Clinton administration's finding. The EPA must now come up with another scheme for cutting mercury emissions - or provide justification for its emissions trading market.

The EPA hasn't yet decided how it will respond to the ruling, said spokesman Jonathan Shradar.
"We are disappointed that the courts suspended the first-ever regulations of mercury emissions from power plants," he said.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that's contaminated lakes and rivers across the U.S. The Clinton administration finding determined there was a "plausible link" between man-made mercury pollution and mercury found in fish.

The utility industry expects to cut its mercury emissions significantly because of other requirements to install devices for reducing the pollution that forms smog and soot, said Dan Riedinger, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry's main lobbying group. These devices also cut mercury pollution, but not as much as states and environmentalists say is necessary to protect public health.

"Air quality will continue to improve," he said. "But we won't know for a number of years what level of mercury reduction the federal government ultimately will require."

Emissions trading works well with pollutants like carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, that don't cause environmental problems near the emissions source, said Vicki Patton, deputy general counsel of Environmental Defense, one of several environmental groups that sued the EPA over the regulation.

"It is entirely inappropriate to apply emissions trading to a toxic air pollutant that has serious human health impacts on a regional and local basis," Patton said.

Federal courts have recently taken a dim view of the EPA's environmental decisions. In 2006, the D.C. circuit court overturned major revisions by the EPA to the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act. Those provisions would have allowed power plants to increase their output - and possibly their emissions - without installing pollution controls if the modifications cost less than 20% of the value of the plant.

The same court last year also overturned air toxics standards from the EPA that would have exempted many brick and cement kilns from regulation.

The Supreme Court in April dealt the administration its most high-profile setback, ruling that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

"EPA political appointees came up with what they thought were terribly clever arguments to keep their former clients from having to clean up," said Pew of EarthJustice. "Invariably those arguments have been rejected by the courts as stupid."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Archbishop says "give up carbon emissions for Lent"

The Archbishop of Canterbury is calling on his flock to cut their carbon emissions this Lent rather than giving up chocolate or alcohol.

The Bishop of Liverpool said “there’s a moral imperative on those of us who emit more than our fair share of carbon to rein in our consumption”.

Parishioners have been asked to take part in the ‘Carbon Fast’ this Lent.
Some suggestions:
  • Walking or riding a bike to church.
  • Praying rather than shopping.
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