Genesis of a plan

Rev Gemma Baseley and parishioner Barry Healy heading towards net zero. Photo by Steve Grant.

ST PAUL’S Anglican church in Beaconsfield has looked back to the very dawn of its lore to take a very modern decision – becoming “net zero” by 2030.

The climate vow won’t just affect the Hampton Road church, but will extend to all parishioners’ homes, which will have solar panels, batteries and hopefully lots more greenery.

Parishioner Barry Healy said it followed a decision by the Anglican Diocese of Perth’s Synod (basically their parliament) earlier this year to go net zero in all its institutions and schools. That decision was championed by St Paul’s churchgoer Peter Newman, a sustainability professor at Curtin University.

“That’s an area from Perth to the South Australian border and down to Esperance, so it’s quite a big chunk of Western Australia,” Mr Healy said.

There are about 50 households in the parish, and Mr Healy said the aim was eventually get them all linked up to software so that their solar panels can becaome a “virtual power plant” connected to the state’s electricity grid.

While Western Power has been concerned about how much solar power it’s being asked to take up because of the wobbling effect it has on fossil-fuel generators, Mr Healy said the utility is slowly coming round.

“Western Power is feeling the heat coming from beneath them because community groups across WA are campaigning for Western Power to get with the program,” he said with an apt metaphor.

St Paul’s is in discussions with solar providers about how to get panels on everyone’s roofs, including one which offers no up-front payments but a monthly fee.

When asked about the theological reasoning behind going net zero, Mr Healy says it’s been there right from the beginning.

“It’s called stewardship; that right in the Garden of Eden humanity was given the task of looking after the Earth,” he said.

“Humanity has not done a good job of that.” Another important aspect of the net zero plan will be to encourage parishioners to plant more trees, initially in their own front and back yards, but eventually as part of community programs.

Mr Healy says it helps draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but will also help to provide more habitat for wildlife in the urban areas.

St Paul’s is holding a Trees and Climate Change: A Call to Action public meetingon July 1 to discuss Fremantle’s tree cover and what locals can do to help improve it.

Guest speakers include City of Fremantle senior urban forest officer, Prof Newman and Mr Healy, who also sits on the church’s EcoCare Commission.

The meeting’s from 11.45am – 1.30pm with refreshments provided, while a suggested donation which will go towards the net zero goal is $10.


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