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Climate campaigners send mock tree for Sheffield display

02 December 2022

SHEFFIELD CHRISTIAN CLIMATE ACTION

THE issue of fossil-fuel investments by the Church has reared its head at Sheffield Cathedral’s annual Christmas Tree Festival, after a tree submitted by climate campaigners was temporarily removed from the display.

Each year, local businesses and charities are invited to decorate Christmas trees in the cathedral on display to the public throughout December. This year, Sheffield Christian Climate Action decorated a tree with children’s craft versions of the logo of oil-and-gas giant Shell, and presented it as a mock gift from the company.

A letter displayed alongside the tree thanked the Church of England for the support that it has given to the fossil-fuel corporation through continued investments. Fake bank notes were hung on the tree, representing the record billions in profit that Shell has made this year.

The tree’s spoof sponsor’s message read “Thank you Church of England, for believing in us.”

Sam Wakeling, who helped decorate the tree said: “The Church of England has been public about its decision to keep investing in fossil-fuel companies like Shell. This has helped protect Shell’s image as a legitimate partner in climate action, rather than helping expose them as a deceitful, violent, and corrupt operation. This Christmas we wanted to help Shell say “thank you” to the Church for the consistent help it has given.

“We recall Jesus’s example, who made it central to his ministry to use parables to challenge the religious authorities of his day who were protecting their own power and getting in the way of God’s freedom for all people. We invite the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies to join in by divesting from all oil and gas immediately.”

Initially, the tree was removed from public view, but it was later reinstated with an explanatory sign. The chief operating officer of Sheffield Cathedral, Jason Carr, said that the cathedral was committed to achieving the Church of England’s target of being carbon net zero by 2030.

“We want to learn, we want to improve and we’re listening, he said. “Sheffield Cathedral acknowledges that activism such as this is often necessary to move the argument along, which is why this tree remains in the 2022 Cathedral Christmas Tree Festival.”

Joe Ware is a senior climate journalist at Christian Aid.

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