6 February 2023

Net zero motion scuppered by procedural concerns

By Chris Shearer

25 October 2021

EFFORTS to reach net zero carbon within the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne have faced a roadblock, after a motion calling for the target was ruled out of order on the final day of synod.

The motion had called on synod to reaffirm a 2007 resolution for the diocese to develop a strategy to become carbon neutral as soon as possible, and commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. It was brought by Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral the Very Reverend Doctor Andreas Loewe.

But concerns were raised early in the debate about the costs associated with the second part of the bill. This would have required Archbishop in Council, the Melbourne Anglican Trust Corporation and the Melbourne Anglican Diocese Corporation to undertake a carbon audit of all diocesan properties. 

Reverend Dr Chris Porter, of St Jude’s and Trinity College, spoke to offer his qualified support for the motion, which was dependent on whether this section of the motion was in breach of synod standing orders 19.1.

This standing order states that any notice of motion which proposes spending money by, or on behalf of the diocese, or from funds held by or on behalf of the diocese, cannot be received unless it specifies the proposed source of funding, and includes a budget.

“I would and do wholeheartedly support the intention of the motion, however my concern is that we have not specified where the finances are coming from,” Dr Porter said. 

“We need to be able to specify where that is coming from, so I would urge synod to support the motion, but also for the mover to consider an amendment in some form to specify where the funds that are going to be used for the audit to occur.”

Several points of order were raised in relation to this procedural matter in the ensuing debate. 

Dr Jenny George, member of Archbishop in Council, noted that the wording of the motion meant an audit would be required for all MATC properties, including all churches, halls, vicarages and commercial properties owned by the diocese. This amounted to “thousands of buildings”, she said. 

“I do not imagine this is costless. I think it’s difficult to fully support this as it’s written with a direction to do something which I cannot imagine how we will do without major cost,” Dr George said.

She said the motion did appear to violate standing order 19.1.

Dr Loewe said he was happy to consider augmenting the final clause to direct Archbishop in Council to allocate resources in the 2023 budget, but that it was important that the motion passed in some form. 

“This motion will at least enable us to hold one another accountable on the way to faster action to address the climate emergency we face,” he said. 

Archbishop Philip Freier, as President of the synod, said he would rule the motion out of order if it was found to be in breach of standing order 19.1, but didn’t want to “frustrate the intention of the synod in moving on this important question”. 

Soon after Dr Freier was given advice that the motion was in breach, and it was ruled out of order. 

With little time remaining in the day, the motion could not be amended.  

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