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Movement to divest from fossil fuels gains momentum

Forty-two institutions connected with various religious denominations announce their decision to divest from investments in the fossil fuel industry.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Institutions hailing from the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed, Baptist, Quaker and Buddhist traditions announced on Monday that they will be divesting from fossil fuel investments. These institutions are present in 14 countries.

The announcement is part of the Bright Now campaign run by Operation Noah based in London. Operation Noah is an organization that encourages church collaboration and action regarding the climate crisis. The Global Catholic Climate Movement, along with several other partners, including the World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith together organized the release of the announcement along with Operation Noah.

Operation Noah said in its announcement that “this is the largest-ever joint announcement of divestment from fossil fuels from faith institutions”.

Catholic institutions included

Noted among Catholic institutions are the Catholic Diocese of Arundel & Brighton, the Jesuits community present in Britain and the Sisters of St Josephs of Peace based in the UK.

The Bishop of Arundel & Brighton is cited in the announcement saying, “Care for the world that has been given to us is an increasingly pressing need. It is therefore timely that the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton divests from fossil fuels. This positive step will contribute to the common good and, I trust, pave the way for further practical action to safeguard this and future generations.”

Non-compliance with Parish agreement targets

Operation Noah stated in a report released earlier in May, “that none of the major oil companies are compliant with the Paris agreement targets”.

Regarding this non-compliance, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Rowan Williams, is cited as saying, “The current health crisis has highlighted as never before the need for coherent international action in the face of global threat. Can we learn the lesson and apply it to the global threat of climate change? To do so means taking practical and effective steps to reduce our lethal dependence on fossil fuels.”

Spiral of death

The Director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission for the Catholic Archdiocese of Semarang, in Indonesia, spelled out the dire threat posed by both Covid-19 and the ecological crisis.

“In this COVID-19 pandemic, it is the exact time not only to reflect, but to act. We have to stop our ecological spiral of death. We have to revive our ecological hope, in massive repentance of humankind, by taking the pathway to more sustainable living.”

Laudato Si’ Week

The announcement also explains that they chose to announce the initial results of their global divestment initiative as part of Laudato Si’ Week initiated by Pope Francis. This week will end with the commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the publication of his encyclical, with the same name.

Operation Noah says that in April, 21 Catholic groups managing an estimated $40 billion worth of assets signed the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge. This pledge is a manifestation of their commitment to invest in companies that share their ecological values.

Decisions made now for the future

Concluding the announcement, Bright Now Campaign Manager, James Buchanan, put these present decisions into a forward-looking perspective.

“The decisions we make now will affect the future of humanity for thousands of years. These faith institutions are showing strong leadership in response to the climate crisis, and we urge governments around the world to follow their lead in ending support for fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future.”

19 May 2020, 10:29