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Give moral leadership by getting out of fossil fuels, urge campaigners

03 July 2020


A projection onto the Houses of Parliament for the School Strike for Climate Change, on Tuesday. In his policy speech the same day, the Prime Minister pledged to use the coronavirus crisis to “build back better, build back greener, build back faster” to tackle health, education, and regional inequalities  

A projection onto the Houses of Parliament for the School Strike for Climate Change, on Tuesday. In his policy speech the same day, the Prime Mi...

THE Christian climate-change charity Operation Noah has encouraged Churches to show “moral leadership” by completely disinvesting from fossil fuels. The charity released a report last month, Church Investments in Major Oil Companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant?, which states that oil and gas companies are not taking seriously the need to move to a low-carbon economy.

The report highlights the gulf between the plans of large oil companies and the targets laid down by the Paris Agreement, which makes a commitment to limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5°C.

The report also states that Shell and BP seek to increase oil and gas production by 38 per cent and 20 per cent respectively between 2018 and 2030, despite the need for global carbon emissions to fall by 55 per cent before 2030 to meet climate-change targets. BP and Shell also spend the most money on lobbying against climate-action initiatives, the report states.

In 2018, the General Synod voted to begin disinvestment in 2020 from fossil-fuel companies that were “not taking seriously their responsibilities” to move to a low-carbon economy (News, 13 July 2018); Operation Noah has argued, however, that because of their commitment to more exploration and extraction of fossil-fuel reserves, none of the main companies was meeting this requirement.

The charity’s 2018 report Fossil Free Churches: Accelerating the transition to a brighter, cleaner future (News, 15 June 2018) also urged the Church of England to reduce its investments in oil companies, which are worth more than £190 million.

The manager of Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign, James Buchanan, said: “The evidence is overwhelming that none of these companies are ‘Paris compliant’. We strongly encourage Churches to demonstrate moral leadership at this key moment in history by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future.”

Churches that have already disinvested from fossil-fuel companies include Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church, and the Church of Ireland. The Ethical Investment Group for the Church in Wales has also recommended full disinvestment from fossil fuels, while, last year, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod voted to recognise the “moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels”.

A spokesperson for the National Investing Bodies of the Church of England confirmed that “we still remain invested in many of the big oil majors,” but said: “In 2015, the Church of England did divest from tar sands oil and thermal coal — two of the most polluting fossil fuels. We’ve committed to start to divest in 2020 from companies who are not taking their climate-change responsibilities seriously, and to divest by 2023 from fossil-fuel producers that we assess are not prepared to align their businesses with the well-below-two-degrees goal.”

Operation Noah has also drawn attention to 42 faith institutions from 14 countries — including 21 from Britain — which have disinvested from fossil fuels. They include the Roman Catholic diocese of Arundel & Brighton, Jesuits in Britain, Oasis Churches and Global Charity, and Westminster College, Cambridge, as well as individual churches.

Mr Buchanan 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 religious orders will join them in divesting from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future.”

Last week, the Vatican issued Journeying for the Care of the Common Home, which urges Christians to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies, build a circular zero-waste economy, and advocate forms of low-carbon development, such as reforestation (News, 26 June). Vatican News said that the document’s central argument was that “everything is connected”, and that “each particular crisis forms part of a single, complex socio-environmental crisis that requires a true ecological conversion.”

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