Mahim Church aims to go carbon neutral within 2 years
Mumbai: One of the oldest churches in the city, St. Michael Church in South Mumbai’s Mahim area, aims to go carbon neutral within the next two years, church spokespersons said. The church has conducted a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory analysis to assess how it can cut back on the emissions.
An analysis by Mahim resident, frequent churchgoer and environmental engineer Emmanuel D’Silva, revealed that Mahim church emitted a total of 44 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq) emissions in 2021, which can be taken as its annual baseline.
Carbon dioxide equivalence is a measure that describes the amount of CO2, for a particular mixture of greenhouse gases, that will have the same global warming potential (GWP) over a given period.
“Not surprisingly, electricity consumption was the biggest contributor to the church’s carbon footprint, emitting 38.52 million tCO2eq per year. Transport, which is usually a big emitter, was not so large in its share, contributing 5.75 tCO2eq annually,” D’Silva said.
This is because many of the church’s visitors and employees live in the vicinity, and simply walk to church or use public transport. Usage of paper stationery and piped gas also contributed a small fraction of the church’s carbon footprint at 0.7 tCO2eq in all. These findings were independently verified by a Hyderabad-based private company working in the climate and energy space.
The church’s decision is in line with the BMC’s Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP), unveiled in March this year, which aims to make the city carbon neutral -- by achieving a state of net zero emissions -- by 2050. This is twenty years ahead of India’s global commitment, made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 in Glasgow last November.
Simply put, net-zero means balancing out the greenhouse gases emitted by polluting activities (consumption of electricity, vehicular emissions, waste burning etc.) through sequestration (capturing or storing carbon dioxide). In theory, this could be done by planting an appropriate amount of trees to offset the church’s 44 million tCO2eq or relying on renewable sources of energy instead of coal-fired power.
Fr Lancy Pinto, parish priest of St. Michael Church, said, “Though our carbon footprint is a small amount by world standards, we hope that our commitment to reducing emissions will encourage other places of worship to think along the same lines. It is our small way of making a difference.”
Fr Pinto also revealed that to offset the church’s footprint, they will be expanding their rooftop solar capacity by between 10 to 20 kilowatts per hour. This is possible, he explained, because the church has a school attached, and the school’s terrace gives them ample space to install additional solar panels.
“We are also considering contributing financially to community-driven, emission-reducing projects. This could mean supporting nature conservation efforts, tree plantations, sustainable agriculture and biogas plants. We are looking at a few options and will make a decision on it soon,” Fr. Pinto added.
St. Michael Church’s emissions footprint is minuscule compared to that of the entire city. As per the BMC’s MCAP, the city emitted an annual carbon load of 23 million tCO2eq in 2019. In simple words, this means that in 2019, each resident of Mumbai emitted approximately 1.8 tonnes of CO2eq greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through broadly three routes, i.e. energy, transport and waste consumption. The widespread sources of these emissions would be thermal (coal-fired) power plants, tailpipe exhaust, and landfills and sewers that emit methane, respectively.
Notably, 72% of the city’s greenhouse gas mix consists of residential, commercial and industrial installations of coal-fired electricity, piped natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, coal, fuel wood and kerosene. Another 20% is generated from the transport sector and 8% from the waste sector. Mumbai aims to cut these emissions by 30% in the next eight years in the first phase of implementing the MCAP.
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