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European church gathering joins green efficiency fight


Delegates taking the plane to the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu in Romania are being asked to pay 15 euros (about US$20) towards the cost of offsetting the ecological burden of their flight.

"This amount doesn’t claim to be a full compensation of the environmental impact of the EEA3, but it allows us to regenerate a forest for the benefit of the local environment in Sibiu," delegates are told in a flyer they receive when they register.

Current estimates, it states, suggest that air traffic now contributes up to 10 percent of the human-induced greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

More than 2000 delegates from Europe’s main churches are in Sibiu for the 4-9 September assembly, which follows previous gatherings in Basel, Switzerland, in 1989, and Graz, Austria, in 1997.

Organizers say that each contribution of 15 euros will allow 48 young trees to be planted by the Protestant parish of Hammersdorf-Gusterita in a forest 5 kilometres from Sibiu and the donation will also support their maintenance for three years. Since 2002 the parish has reclaimed 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest, seven hectares of which are now in urgent need of reforestation.

The European Christian Environmental Network, which is supporting the initiative, says global climate change is one of the greatest threats to present and future generations.

"For too long the churches have remained silent about the ecological crisis. In recent years, however, they have increasingly become aware of the urgency of the situation," the network notes.

It has implemented a series of measures to make the assembly more ecologically friendly. These include the use of organic products from an association of Romanian, Transylvanian-German and Hungarian peasants, the availability of fair trade coffee, using recycled paper for assembly documents, and waste separation.

The Sibiu gathering is the first European ecumenical assembly where such eco-management measures have been taken.

The total cost of the reforestation project is 12 000 euros and if the organizers receive more than this, they will the extra for other projects to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in Sibiu, such as investing in solar energy for church buildings, and increasing energy efficiency.

The Sibiu assembly is organized by the Conference of European Churches and Council of European (Roman Catholic) Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE). Between them, the two groupings account for most of Europe’s Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox churches.

(c) Ecumenical News International