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Ahead of COP26 UK Churches join global divestment announcement

As world leaders prepare to meet in Scotland for the UN Climate Conference (COP26) starting on October 31, 72 faith institutions have announced they will divest from fossil fuels. Several Catholic Dioceses in Scotland, England and Wales have joined the initiative, heeding Pope Francis’ call to listen to the cry of the Earth and of the poor.

By Lisa Zengarini

Only a few days ahead of the opening of the COP26, in Glasgow, and of the G20 Summit in Rome, 72 faith institutions including 37 from the United Kingdom, have pledged to divest $4.2 billion from fossil fuels. It is the largest-ever joint divestment announcement by religious organisations. Faith institutions involved in the initiative manage fuel fossils assets in Australia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Ukraine, the UK, the United States and Zambia.

Catholic Dioceses and institutions joining 

They include a number of UK Churches and dioceses representing nearly 2,000 local churches. Among them: the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (BCOS); all Catholic Dioceses in Scotland and four Catholic Dioceses in England and Wales; five Catholic religious orders in Britain; St Mary’s University in Twickenham and the Church of England Dioceses of Truro and Sodor & Man. 

The global divestment movement 

Faith institutions have been at the forefront of the global divestment movement representing more than 35% of total commitments, which now amount to over $39 trillion, according to a new report published this week. 

Responding to the cry of the earth and of the poor

“Our commitment to divestment in fossil fuels is a response both to the cry of the earth and of the poor, taking us one step further towards its consolation,” said Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, one of the four Catholic Dioceses of England and Wales who have joined the initiative.

The other three include the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Dioceses of Brentwood and Portsmouth. Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said the Diocese’s decision to join in reflects “the commitment from both diocesan clergy and laity to play their part “in the search for a more equitable use of our mother earth’s resources… to ‘live simply’ and in solidarity with the poor” and in bringing attention to the urgent need for change in how global resources are used.

Commitment for justice

According to Bishop Bill Nolan, Lead Bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops’ of Scotland, their decision to join the record global divestment announcement shows that an increasing number of Catholic institutions are responding to the recent Vatican recommendation to invest in climate solutions. “The bishops decided that disinvestment would show that the status quo is not acceptable and further, that given the harm that the production and consumption of fossil fuels is causing to the environment and to populations in low income countries, it was not right to profit from investment in these companies,” the prelate said. “Disinvestment is a sign that justice demands that we must move away from fossil fuels”.   

The Vatican appeal ahead of COP26 

On 4 October, Pope Francis along with scientists and religious leaders gathering in the Vatican ahead of COP-26, signed a joint document urging global governments to “raise their ambition and their international cooperation” to address the “unprecedented ecological crisis” by putting an immediate end to all fossil fuel finance.   The International Energy Agency (IEA) stated in its recent Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap that there can be no new coal, oil and gas developments if the world is to limit global warming to below 1.5°C and prevent catastrophic climate impacts.

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28 October 2021, 12:39