Massive divestment from fossil fuels by faith organizations
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Thirty-five institutions from six countries and with combined total assets of more than S1.25 billion have announced a multi-million dollar divestment from fossil fuel companies, which will see the participation of some Catholic organizations, including five dioceses in Ireland, the Archdiocese of Armagh, and two in Canada.
The announcement on Tuesday was organized by the Laudato Si’ Movement, World Council of Churches, Operation Noah, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith among others organisations.
The press release pointed out that the Catholic institutions’ divestment alone surpasses $500 million.
Vatican's Call for Divestment
Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Ecology Sector in the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, recalled that already in 2020, the Vatican called on Catholic institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies because of their damage to the environment.
"This is how," the Vatican official continued, "prophetic institutions can live out our values and help the most vulnerable among us. If we want to achieve peace, and ensure a livable planet for all, including the future generations, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels that fuel the current climate crisis."
'Disproportionate impact' of climate change
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, recalled the many members of Irish congregations, especially the young people, who, he said, feel a responsibility to take action with regard to the challenges of climate change and climate justice.
"Climate change," Archbishop Martin lamented, "is already having a disproportionate impact on those who are on the margins, those most dependent on fragile ecosystems and most vulnerable to famine, to drought, to food and water insecurity and conflict, to exploitative and ‘predatory economic interests’, to the destruction of their homes and displacement of their families.”
An example of this reality can be evidenced currently in Africa, where thousands of families may be soon displaced for the construction of a pipeline.
Pipeline ready to displace over 12,000 families in Africa
A few days ago, African bishops gathered at the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, known as SECAM, issued a statement calling on governments to take urgent and ambitious action to protect biodiversity.
One of their main requests was to immediately halt the construction of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), planned for Uganda and Tanzania, which would effectively displace over 12,000 families.
Tuesday's global divestment announcement, the press release noted, follows an investigation by The Guardian into the world’s largest fossil fuel firms and the scores of planned ‘carbon bomb’ oil and gas projects which would push the world past the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C and which could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people.
Just nine months after world leaders pledged to “keep 1.5 alive” at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, it added, 20 fossil fuel companies are moving ahead with expansion plans.
Meanwhile, many governments, including the United State, Canada, the UK, Norway and Australia, continue to approve new fossil fuel developments that will put 1.5°C out of reach.
Looking at what efforts have been made globally, more than 1,500 institutions from all sectors, with combined assets of over $40 trillion, have now made some form of divestment commitment worldwide, up from a starting point of $50 billion in 2014.
According to last year’s Invest/Divest report, faith institutions represented more than 35% of all divestment commitments globally, more than any other single sector.
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