Faith groups call for a just recovery by divesting from fossil fuels

Coal powered power stations in Poland

Coal powered power stations in Poland

As major challenges for the global economy are predicted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a diverse group of faith institutions is putting the call for a just economic recovery into practice.

Today, 42 faith institutions from 14 countries, including 21 from the UK, announce their divestment from fossil fuels. This is the largest-ever joint announcement of divestment from fossil fuels from faith institutions. It comes from institutions in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Myanmar, Spain, the UK, and the United States.

As governments around the world make substantial investments in an economic recovery, faith communities urge them to think long term and focus on a recovery that is low-carbon and just.

Today's multi-faith announcement comes from Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and Buddhist institutions, among others with over £1 billion in assets under management. The group includes the Jesuits in Britain, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace (UK) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, which becomes the third Catholic diocese in England and Wales to divest. There are now more than 170 Catholic institutions around the world that have made commitments to divest from fossil fuels.

The Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Rt Revd Richard Moth, said: "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."

Several Catholic religious orders in the UK have already divested from fossil fuel companies, including the Passionists, the Congregation of Jesus, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Presentation Sisters and the Franciscan Sisters Minoress.

Earlier this month, a new report from Operation Noah showed that none of the major oil companies are compliant with the Paris agreement targets. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, said in response to the report, "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."

Illustrating the need for a just recovery for our brothers and sisters in faith globally, the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Bangladesh is among those committing to divest from fossil fuels.

Bangladesh is home to the world's largest refugee camp, where more than half a million people live near the Bay of Bengal. The Bay of Bengal is extremely vulnerable to the greater risk of catastrophic storms that come with climate change. A viral pandemic and a catastrophic storm would bring one of the world's most vulnerable communities to a halt, illustrating the need to repair the faults that have left economies near the breaking point.

The global divestment announcement comes at the start of Laudato Si' Week, a global commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si', Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and ecology. After being invited to participate in Laudato Si' Week by Pope Francis, Catholics have taken up the project to build a more just and sustainable future together. In the last month, 21 Catholic organizations with $40 billion in assets under management committed to invest in companies that align with their values by signing the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: "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 hope that more Catholic dioceses and religious orders will join them in divesting from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future."

A full list of the 42 institutions divesting from fossil fuels and statements from leaders can be found here.

Tomás Insua, executive director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, said: "Every dollar invested in fossil fuels is a vote for suffering. These institutions are taking prophetic action to light the way towards a more just and sustainable future because, now more than ever, we need to protect our communities and build a just recovery together."

Prof Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, World Council of Churches Deputy General Secretary said: "We reiterate the urgent concerns of Christians around the world in relation to climate change and its adverse effects on the whole of creation. The moral imperative of fossil fuel divestment and of investing in a low-carbon path to realizing economic, social, and ecological wellbeing and sustainability for the whole creation is more urgent than never."

Rev Rachel Mash, Coordinator of Green Anglicans (Anglican Church of Southern Africa), said: "The COVID-19 crisis shows us that our current way of living is unsustainable, we are sick because the Earth is sick. We cannot go back to normal, we must grow back to a new way of sustainable living. As we move into a post COVID-19 era, we must move away from sources of energy that contribute to climate change and air pollution."

Fr Damian Howard SJ, Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits said: "Climate change is the most pressing challenge the world faces as climate disasters wreak more and more destruction, hitting poorer countries the hardest - despite them having done the least to cause them. The decision to divest is principally a response to the clear moral imperative of acting to safeguard our planet for future generations at a time when scientific evidence is mounting that we are facing a grave climate emergency."

Sister Bridgetta Rooney, trustee of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace said: "The climate crisis calls each of us to conversion of heart and change in behaviour. We felt compelled to divest of fossil fuels to reflect our values. We are also committed to using our resources to make positive investments that will help the transition to a zero carbon future."


Operation Noah -

The Dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels in January 2020, becoming the first Catholic dioceses in England and Wales to divest.

The Jesuits in Britain announced their divestment from fossil fuels in February 2020.

Tags: Environment, Operation Noah, Laudato Si', Climate Change, Fossil Fuels, Operation Noah

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