Catholic groups join billion pound divestment in fossil fuels

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The push to divest from fossil fuels gathered momentum today when more than 42 religious institutions from 14 countries announced they were joining the campaign.

Of 42 body of faith, 21 are from the UK.

The campaign represents the largest joint divestment ever in fossil fuels from religious organizations. It comes from organizations in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Myanmar, Spain, UK and US .

The campaign comes amid a growing debate about economic recovery from the collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Faith communities urge governments to focus on low carbon and fair recovery.

Divestment is embraced by Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and Buddhist institutions, amounting to over £ 1 billion in assets.

The group includes the Jesuits of Great Britain, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace (United Kingdom) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, which becomes the third Catholic Diocese of England and Wales to relinquish jurisdiction . There are now over 170 Catholic institutions around the world that are committed to divesting from fossil fuels.

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Richard Moth, said: “There is an increasing need for the world entrusted to us. It is therefore opportune for the diocese of Arundel and Brighton to withdraw from fossil fuels. This positive step will contribute to the common good and, I am sure, will pave the way for further practical actions to protect this generation and future generations. “

Several Catholic religious orders in the UK have already withdrawn from fossil fuel companies, including the Passionists, the Congregation of Jesus, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of the Presentation and the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

Earlier this month, a new report of Operation Noah has shown that none of the major oil companies is in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams of Oystermouth said in response to the report: “The current health crisis has highlighted like never before the need for coherent international action in the face of the global threat. Can we learn the lesson and apply it to the global threat of climate change? To do this, we must take practical and effective steps to reduce our deadly dependence on fossil fuels. ”

The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Bangladesh is among those pledging 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 increased risk of catastrophic storms that accompany climate change. A viral pandemic and catastrophic storm would end one of the world’s most vulnerable communities, illustrating the need to fix flaws that have left economies near breaking point.

The announcement of the global divestment 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.

Week-long global events to mark the anniversary have taken place, albeit more digitally than originally anticipated. A global online retreat was held last weekend, organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM).

Pope Francis’ video for the week was released, where he said: “I renew my urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis” and “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor cannot continue”.

A Vatican reflection guide highlighted the similarities between the pandemic and the ecological crisis, for example its global reach, the exposure of underlying social injustices and the need for a joint effort to find solutions. The week ends on May 24 with a world day of prayer at noon, from a text made available on the Laudato Si ‘Week website. However, Catholic communities around the world are invited to join a grassroots movement to gradually work towards “total sustainability” over the next decade, a path that would include carbon neutrality, simpler lifestyles and divestment from fuels. fossils.

It comes after a month where 21 Catholic organizations with $ 40 billion in assets under management pledged to invest in companies that align with their values ​​by signing the Catholic impact investment commitment.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Director at Operation Noah, said: “The decisions we make now will affect the future of humanity for thousands of years. These religious 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 moving away from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future.

Tomás Insua, executive director of the 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 must protect our communities and build a just recovery together. “

Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, said: “We reiterate the urgent concerns of Christians around the world regarding climate change and its adverse effects on all of creation. The moral imperative to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a low-carbon path to achieve economic, social and ecological well-being and sustainability for all of creation is more urgent than ever. “

Reverend Rachel Mash, Green Anglicans coordinator with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said: “The Covid-19 crisis shows us that our current way of life is not sustainable, we are sick because the Earth is sick. We cannot go back to normal, we have to go back to a new sustainable way of life. As we enter a post-Covid-19 era, we must move away from energy sources that contribute to climate change and air pollution. “

Fr Damian Howard SJ, British Jesuit Provincial Superior, said: “Climate change is the most pressing challenge facing the world as climate disasters increasingly cause destruction, hitting the worst countries hardest. poorer – although they did the least to cause them. The decision to divest is primarily a response to the clear moral imperative to act to protect our planet for future generations at a time when scientific evidence is mounting that we face a serious climate emergency.

Sister Bridgetta Rooney, administrator of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace: “The climate crisis calls each of us to conversion of heart and change in behavior. We felt compelled to move away from 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. ”


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