Forty Roman Catholic bodies disinvest from fossil fuels

13 October 2017

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A COALITION of 40 Roman Catholic institutions in five continents has disinvested from fossil fuels, in the largest joint announcement of faith-based disinvestment to date.

Three dioceses, an archdiocese, conferences, and a bank were among the institutions to join the growing list of organisations departing from fossil fuels, last week, the Global Cath­olic Climate Movement said.

These included the archdiocese of Cape Town, in South Africa; the Episcopal Conference of Belgium; and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, in Italy: the home of the monastery of Sacro Convento, where the remains of St Francis are housed, it also disinvested last week. The town mayor of Assisi announced its disinvestment from fossil fuels alongside the diocese.

The €4.5-billion German Bank for the Church and Caritas (Bank für Kirche und Caritas eG) has also disin­­vested: from coal, tar sands oil, and oil shale. It was joined by the ecu­­men­­ical financers Oikocredit Bel­gium, and 12 other RC Belgium bodies.

The announcement came during the Season of Creation, a month-long celebration of prayer and action for the environment initiated by Pope Francis. Its website suggests that more than 280 Roman Catholic or ecumenical services dedicated to creation are being held, alongside protests, clean-ups, and pilgrimages.

James Buchanan, who works on the Bright Now campaign for Opera­tion Noah, said that the “hugely sig­nificant” move had brought fossil-fuel disinvestment to the top of the agenda. “We hope that it will inspire more Churches and faith-based orhanisations to support the transition to a low-carbon economy by divest­ing from fossil fuels and investing in clean alternatives.”

The executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Tomás Insua, said that the bodies’ moral clarity “is cause for celebration. Their leader­ship blazes a path that the World Bank and its fellow financial bodies should follow.”

It comes after nine RC organ­isations announced their departure from investing in fossil fuels in May. The total value of all institutions to have disinvested around the world has surpassed $5 trillion to date.

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The Wheaton Franciscan Sisters disinvested from fossil fuels in May, with eight sister organisations. A leader, Sister Sheila Kinsey, said: “To see that number more than quad­rupled just five months later is truly astounding. The movement for divestment is growing every day, and people of faith are in the lead.”

The senior UK political adviser for Christian Aid, Tom Viita, said the movement “is driving the moral urgency of tackling climate change into the traditionally amoral world of economics. It’s right that religious institutions take their rightful place in the forefront of that fight for finance fit for the future.

“Roman Catholic institutions have accumulated enormous wealth, which they have a responsibility to use for the good of the world’s poor. That is not compatible with con­tinued profit from use of fossil fuels.”

On Wednesday, Christian Aid welcomed a joint announcement from the United Kingdom and Canada that they will work to build a global alliance on the transition from unabated coal-fired electricity to cleaner energy.

“To help developing countries leave coal behind and continue to prosper, the UK and Canada, together with other rich countries, must help them harness the renewable energy sources at their disposal,” said Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s International Climate Lead. “In the same way, Africa has leapfrogged landline phones to mobiles, the developing world must leapfrog the dirty and dangerous fossil fuels of the past to the clean energy sources that will dominate the future global economies of the future.”

On Friday, Tearfund published a letter, signed by dozens of Christian leaders, including five Anglican Archbishops, urging the world’s leaders to keep the promises they made in the Paris Agreement (News, 14 December, 2015). 

“This is our generation’s challenge, a significant part of how we love our neighbours,” the letter reads. It was signed by Archbishops of Cape Town, Polynesia, Australia, Brazil, and Central Africa.

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