Malcolm highlights the work of churches in Leith, Stockbridge & Wardie
Ecocongregations: Scottish churches and Climate Change Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): I congratulate Des McNulty on securing this important debate, and I offer even more congratulations to the 200 congregations throughout Scotland that have registered to become eco-congregations. I am sure that members will forgive me for picking out the seven of those 200 that happen to be in my constituency.

I pay tribute to St Serf's, South Leith parish church, St Andrew's and St George's, St James's Leith, St Paul's and St George's, Stockbridge parish church and Wardie parish church. I congratulate Wardie parish church congregation in particular on having recently received its second award - I am told that only six congregations in Scotland have achieved that.

Having heard from many members of those churches and having looked into the matter, I am struck by the enormous amount of work and commitment that is involved in the eco-congregation scheme. An award is not gained easily - congregations have to work through a series of modules. Some of those are to do with the church buildings, for example, while others are about reaching out into the life of the community and carrying out environment-related work in that context.

In Edinburgh, a network of churches - I believe that it is the same elsewhere - ensures systematic organisation of the eco-congregations. We should acknowledge the significant work that they are doing. It is an example of the churches showing leadership, sometimes on issues on which the majority of opinion is not always on their side. They have, for example, shown leadership on international development and nuclear weapons, and they are now showing leadership on climate change. That is particularly important because, as we all know, and given the enormous challenges that we face in relation to climate change, Government cannot bring about changes on its own.

We should pay tribute to the Governments in London and Edinburgh for the leadership that they are showing, but we cannot make the advances that are required unless people take action in their own lives. It is important that we have more community-based initiatives to get people to change their lifestyles in relation to climate change.

In many cases, it is difficult or challenging for Governments to deal with climate change, because the people are not always signed up to the changes. It is different, in that sense, from international development and other movements that grew up from below and put pressure on Governments. Governments are showing leadership on climate change, but it is difficult in many cases to take action for fear of alienating the public, which is why it is important that there are groups that are active in the community and which are putting pressure on politicians, showing leadership and trying to spread the message through community engagement at local level.

In that context, the eco-congregation movement is important. We face no greater challenge in this century than the challenge of climate change, and the more grass-roots initiatives, such as eco-congregations, there are, the more likely it is that we will achieve our goals.
December 17th 2008, (Columns 13507-9)