Yorkshire North and East District moving towards Carbon Net Zero

14 December 2022

Read how a Methodist District is working towards being Carbon Net Zero in this blog by Adele Borrowman, Grant Fundraising Enabler, Circuit Support Team, Yorkshire North and East Methodist District

In Spring 2019, the Yorkshire North and East District committed itself to become Net Zero by at least Net Zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach Net Zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

Of course, it’s all very well to have the target, but how do we know it is achievable and how do we do it? The groundwork to identify this as a feasible target was extensive and was led by Prof Simon Pringle, an expert in Sustainability and Innovation. All of our 200+ churches had an initial audit, from which we identified 40 churches suitable for an early transition to Net Zero. This has given us confidence that the District, and the Circuits and churches within it, can achieve Net Zero by 2040 through the following measures:

  • Targeted refurbishment of properties including conversion to locally generated green energy where possible
  • Switching to green tariffs; and
  • Commitments to lowering personal carbon footprints through travel and the choices we make about what we buy and consume.

Since these priorities were identified, we have been busy puzzling out the practicalities of how to decarbonise our buildings. With help from the Rural Community Energy Fund (now disbanded) 36 churches were assessed to establish a practical Pathway to Net Zero. 

We have learned many things, including that the most exciting measures are not always first on the to do list. Heat pumps & EV chargers can seem like the go-to solution, but they are expensive and not always suitable. We’ve discovered the answer is first to tackle insulation, double or secondary glazing, and the DIY jobs that few of us love, such as excluding draughts.

Secondly, we need the experts; we have spent time gathering our energy bills and the room lettings diary so engineers can calculate what our buildings need, based on how efficient they are and how they are used. We are using the long winter nights to get busy with the Thermal Imaging Camera taking photos of our churches to see where the heat leaks from. Architect George Clarke’s short YouTube ‘explainer’ videos with Mitsubishi Electric have provided insights into sustainable buildings.

We’ve also signed up to Carbon Literacy training which has helped us understand the climate emergency, and communicate the situation to others.

We should have our first Net Zero refurbishment up and running in February in Killinghall, near Harrogate. The church has partnered with Resurrected Bites to run a community café, using food surplus from Bettys. We hope people will come along to find out more. We will also be launching a ‘Tea & PV’ project at several churches in 2023 where visitors will be able to see how much energy is being generated by looking at the AV screen, over a cup of tea. A couple will have EV charging points too.

Whilst we have made a promising and committed start, we have discovered we really need the dedicated input of a Net Zero Officer to help us move forward at the pace the climate emergency demands. We will be recruiting for the post of Net Zero Officer in the Spring.  We are hugely grateful to the Benefact Trust for granting us the funds we need to make this happen.


Queen St Methodist Church in Scarborough features in our forthcoming Tea &PV project, helping us learn more about Solar PV. This beautiful building was generously provided in 1923 by Joseph Rank, Miller, Methodist and Philanthropist. He ensured that should the new church fail to thrive, it could be re-purposed as a cinema, ready to go with a projection room. He needn't have worried; when Sangster was preaching, the church was so full, Joseph Rank was found sitting in the stairwell because all the seats were taken!  In the church today, solar panels are perfectly achievable on the curved roof, whilst ensuring our stained glass roof lights remain resplendent.