I want to share some reflections on a recent visit to  Scotland.

Scotland is a green country-  mainly because it rains so much and the countryside is indeed very  green! However they  are also embracing the transformation  towards green energy  that  God is calling us towards. The Scottish Government has made an inspiring commitment to move towards renewable energy by 2020. Their natural resource base for renewable energy is high, with the most important sources being wind, hydro-electricity, , wave and tidal, with a little solar. In 2011 around 35% of the country’s energy came from renewables.

How has Scotland made this change?

Wind power: There is a great awareness of green energy and a national pride. Although  I encountered a few wind farm complaints, these were substantially  less than in England with their strong NIMBI(not in my backyard ) movement against wind farms.

Wind power in Scotland is the country’s fastest growing renewable energy technology  and they are busy with a wind farm which will be Europe’s largest  onshore wind farm when completed.  A number of large offshore wind farms are also being planned

Wave power: Various systems are under development at present aimed at harnessing the enormous potential available for wave power off Scotland’s coasts. The world’s largest wave farm is now under construction.

Tidal power: The technology for  tidal power is in its prototype stage. This was the situation of wind power about  25 years ago when various systems were being tested. The Pentland Firth between Orkney and mainland Scotland has been described as the “Saudi Arabia of tidal power”  and may be capable of generating up to 10 GW!

Even solar energy has been embraced and I was astonished to see more solar voltaic panels on homes in chilly Scotland than in sunny Cape Town. This has been encouraged by the buy-in tariff.

The technology exists in all our nations to move towards renewable energy. What are the lessons we can learn as churches from Scotland to inspire us as we try to move to post fossil fuel energy?

  1. To  support secular/faith based coalitions.

A primary cause of the Scottish Government’s shift was the pressure put upon them by joint campaigns of  non profit organizations, churches and the public and private sector. They worked together in a coalition called the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. The role of the church was recognized as important in this coalition. They lobbied the government for strong legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.  In 2009 the Scottish parliament passed the world’s strongest climate legislation (or so is claimed!)– the Scottish Climate Change act  which has a target of reductions in carbon emissions of 42% by 2020 from the baseline year of 1990. Although some interim targets have been missed, the coalition is keeping the pressure up!

  1. Eco-congregations.

Eco-congregations. The  Scottish eco-congregation movement has been very inspiring.  Nearly one in ten churches in Scotland are now registered eco-congregations. There has been substantial buy-in from major denominations in particular the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and  Scottish Episcopal Church (Anglican). A key element of their success has been the commitment to working ecumenically.

  1. Sense of identity

National pride. Green energy has become a source of pride for the nation, an area where this small nation can become a world leader.

Links with Africa. Several people mentioned the historic links of Scotland with  Malawi, with many schools and churches having links with  projects and schools in Malawi. This gives an awareness of  global citizenship and real life stories of the  impact of climate change on communities.

Scotland gives us hope, they show  that  a post –oil future is possible. We as churches must come together ecumenically and join effective coalitions  to push for green energy. The technology is there , what is lacking is the political will.

“Here’s how you recognize a politician: they’re the ones walking around with their fingers in the air. And they lick their finger to see which way the wind’s blowing. You don’t change a nation by changing what that one, wet-finger politician believes. You change a nation only when you change the wind.”(Jim Wallis)

Let us be that wind of change.


Rev Dr Rachel Mash

Environmental Coordinator

Anglican Church of Southern AfricaImage


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