Wind Farm | Credit: CBCEW
In a challenge to the fossil fuel industry’s dangerous expansion plans and increasingly empty rhetoric on climate, 35 faith institutions from seven countries – including five Church of England dioceses, two Catholic dioceses in the UK, and a Church of England cathedral – today announced their divestment from fossil fuel companies. In total, 19 of the 35 institutions divesting are from the UK.
Organised by Operation Noah, Laudato Si’ Movement, the World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith, this latest divestment announcement comes from faith institutions in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, the UK and the US, just three weeks before Anglican bishops from around the world gather for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.
Institutions divesting from fossil fuels include two Catholic dioceses (the Diocese of Leeds and the Archdiocese of Armagh); 11 Catholic religious orders (including the Friars Minor in Great Britain, the Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth Generalate, the Jesuits in the United States East Province and the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in the US); five Church of England dioceses (Birmingham, Durham, Leicester, Newcastle and Worcester); a Church of England cathedral (Leicester Cathedral); the Catholic Theological Society of America; and two Jesuit universities in the US.
Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Ecology Sector in the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, which assists Pope Francis’ work on the environment, said: ‘In 2020, the Vatican called on Catholic institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies given their harm to the environment. I applaud these prophetic institutions divesting today and encourage every institution in the world to reduce our dependence on such harmful energy sources by divesting from fossil fuels. This is how 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.’
Rt Revd Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds, said: ‘We have now divested ourselves of the few remaining investments in fossil fuel companies. As we continue to strive for realistic, achievable, incremental goals, specific to the needs and context of our local ecology, we are also respectful of the worldwide environment. Care for Our Common Home is woven into our Diocesan Family life; not only do we proclaim ‘Laudato Si’!’ with our words, but also give praise to Him in all our deeds!’
Both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the UN have warned against new fossil fuel projects anywhere in the world, as scientists say we cannot safely burn the vast majority of fossil fuels still in the ground. Yet just nine months after world leaders pledged to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, 20 fossil fuel companies – including Shell, Total, BP and ExxonMobil – are moving ahead with fossil fuel expansion plans totalling $932 billion that would push the world past 1.5°C of heating. Meanwhile, governments including the US, Canada, the UK, Norway and Australia continue to approve new fossil fuel developments that will put 1.5°C out of reach.
Faith leaders are calling for action: earlier this year, more than 500 UK Church leaders, including 68 Catholic and Anglican bishops and some of the UK’s largest Christian NGOs, called on the UK Government to stop all new fossil fuel developments. Last week, the Methodist Church of Britain endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the Church of Scotland has called for no new fossil fuel extraction.
A growing number of Catholic institutions are cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry: 9 out of 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales have now divested from fossil fuels. Last October, ahead of COP26, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and all Catholic dioceses in Scotland announced their divestment.
Most major Christian denominations in the UK have now fully divested from fossil fuels, with the notable exceptions of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England.
James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Director at Operation Noah, said: ‘Today, faith institutions around the world are making a bold and powerful statement that it is unethical to invest in an industry that is fuelling the climate, conflict and the cost-of-living crises. As 20 fossil fuel companies including BP, Shell, Exxon and Total plan to spend nearly $1 trillion on new fossil fuel developments which the UN Secretary General has described as ‘delusional’, we call on the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to choose life, divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in clean energy that will address the multiple crises we face.’
A full list of the institutions divesting from fossil fuels and quotes from leaders can be found here.