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Dioceses join the latest tranche to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies

05 July 2022

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FIVE dioceses and one cathedral, Leicester, are among 35 Christian institutions that announced this week that they will disinvest from fossil-fuel companies.

The announcement comes as as oil and gas giants threaten to accelerate global warming with plans to spend nearly a trillion dollars on new fossil-fuel projects. These expansions come despite warnings from the International Energy Agency that no new oil and gas fields are needed if the world is to meet the 1.5°C Paris climate target and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Although the Church of England nationally still invests in fossil-fuel corporations, the five dioceses — Birmingham, Durham, Leicester, Newcastle, and Worcester — are among 11 that have disinvested from fossil fuels in the past 15 months.

Among the other church institutions that disinvested this week are two Roman Catholic dioceses, the Methodist Church in Ireland, several local churches, and 11 RC religious orders.

The Bishop of Dudley in Worcester diocese, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, said: “We are facing a climate emergency, and it’s up to all of us, as churches and as individuals, to do what we can to protect this planet for future generations. As well as how we heat our homes and churches, how we travel and live, this stewardship responsibility extends to where we invest our money.”

Of all the commitments to disinvest from fossil fuels around the world, an estimated 35 per cent have been made by faith institutions, more than any other single sector. Campaigners say that churches, seen as morally minded investors, have the power to strip fossil-fuel corporations of their social and political influence by disinvesting.

James Buchanan, Bright Now campaign director at Operation Noah, which focuses on church disinvestment, 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 [Roman] 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.”

Church leaders are increasingly taking a lead in speaking up for action to tackle climate change. Last year, more than 20 Anglican bishops in Southern Africa, including the Archbishop of Cape Town, the three bishops of Mozambique, and the Bishop of Namibia called for an immediate halt to oil and gas exploration in Africa. Earlier this year, more than 500 UK church leaders, including 68 Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops joined some of the UK’s largest Christian NGOs to call on the UK Government to stop all new fossil-fuel developments.

The Revd Dr Rachel Mash, environmental coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, will be attending this month’s Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. She said that activities of the fossil-fuel companies that are still being funded by the Church of England often bring impoverishment, ecological damage, war, and human-rights violations to African communities. “The oil curse is real,” she said. “Oil companies promise vast profits and prosperity, but the reality is that they leave pollution and political upheaval.”

Synod call. Christian Climate Action is sending a letter to all members of the General Synod urging them to support the Church of England’s new plan for reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 (News, 1 July).

The letter says that it is important that the document, Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030, “is endorsed and put into action as swiftly as possible. Not only will this reduce the Church of England’s emissions, it will also act as a prophetic statement and an inspiration to the wider world.”

The letter also asks Synod members to urge all parts of the Church of England to commit to disinvest from fossil fuels before the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, which is due to take place in Egypt in November. This would “demonstrate the prophetic voice of the Church for the young, the most vulnerable and the poorest in the face of the destruction of God’s Creation”, it says.

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