As hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York, London, and cities across the globe this weekend to call for a global deal on climate change, the Church of Sweden has become the latest national Church to eliminate fossil fuels from its investment portfolio.
The Church announced this week that it has removed gas companies from its portfolio to make its $691 million of assets fossil free.
One of the first institutions to take up divestment, the Church of Sweden now believes investments in fossil fuel companies are a risk. Gunnela Hahn, Head of Responsible Investment at the Church of Sweden said: "We see a financial risk in owning fossil fuel companies. Their value consists to a large extent of fossil fuel reserves that risk losing value since they cannot be extracted if we are to have a liveable planet."
This decision came as world faith leaders gathered in New York for an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change. Representatives from 21 countries on six continents delivered a letter to the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN at the UN Climate Summit calling on governments to phase out fossil fuels subsidies and divest from or cap coal immediately.
Ellie Roberts, Operation Noah divestment campaigner, said: "The Church of Sweden’s decision to disinvest increases the pressure on the Methodist Church and Church of England, both of which retain large holdings in fossil fuel companies, to join the growing list of fossil free Churches." This list now includes the Uniting Church in Australia, the United Church of Christ in the US, six New Zealand Anglican dioceses and the Quakers in Britain.
This announcement will also resonate with local churches and dioceses in the UK that support Operation Noah’s call for the Church of England and the Methodist Church to disinvest from fossil fuel companies.
Speaking shortly after the announcement the Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Rector from All Saints Church, Ascot Heath and an Operation Noah trustee said: "I hope the Church of England and other denominations in the UK will heed the call of the Swedish Church and the World Council of Churches.
"In particular, I call on the General Synod of the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels as soon as possible. If the Church is to be faithful to its calling, it really needs to be in the vanguard of this movement."
Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment is due out soon. Pope Benedict became the first Pope to harness solar power in 2008, when he commissioned the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Pope Paul VI Hall to provide electricity for the Vatican. He criticised the "unbalanced use of energy" saying the environmental damage it caused was making the lives of poor people on earth especially unbearable."
Operation Noah is an ecumenical Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. Operation Noah has produced an authoritative report, Bright Now: towards fossil fuel Churches, which sets out the moral, theological, scientific, financial and practical case for Churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies, and examines why they must actively seek to support clean, alternative forms of energy generation through their investment portfolios. This is available to download from http://brightnow.org.uk/resources
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