A group of Anglican bishops and archbishops have called on their church to show a “faith response” to “climate justice” by divesting fossil fuels from the church’s investment portfolio. Calling climate change “the most moral issue of our day”, they also urge world leaders to agree “fair, ambitious, accountable and binding climate change agreements at national and international levels”.
According to the Guardian, the 17 bishops represent the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), an organisation which promotes environmental concerns across the 85 million-strong global Anglican community.
Meeting together in South Africa in February this year the group drafted a Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice, releasing the document ahead of Good Friday. “In different ways each of our own dioceses are deeply impacted by climate injustice and environmental degradation,” they have said. “We accept the evidence of science concerning the contribution of human activity to the climate crisis and the disproportionate role played by fossil-fuel based economies.
They argue that although climate scientists have been warning of the “consequences of inaction,” there is “an alarming lack” of agreement on how to tackle climate change. They believe that the problem is spiritual as well as economic and political, as it is a question of “how human life is framed and valued” including “how the lifestyle of wealthy countries is to be balanced against the basic needs of the developing world. For this reason the church must urgently find its collective moral voice.”
But they insist that capitalism is at the root of the problem, saying: “We acknowledged that there are large economic and political issues at play in this complex conversation around unexploited fossil fuel reserves and the development of sustainable and renewable forms of energy: including the subsidization of fossil fuel industries and the powerful influence of big business on government policy throughout the world.”
The Right Reverend Ellinah Wamukoya, Africa’s first woman bishop and a member of the ACEN, said it was morally insupportable that the burden of climate change falls disproportionately on the world’s women.
“Women are more often dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, so the contribution of women is essential in decisions around climate change. Our communities must be equal, as in the Eucharist,” she said.
The group has declared that they will fast for one day a month until the crisis is resolved, vowing “We undertake to fast for climate justice on the first day of every month in solidarity with the earth and in acknowledgement that our own common life as a Church has contributed to the current climate crisis.”
They have also pledged to create materials for churches, including educational materials, on how church members can do their bit to stave off carbon driven climate change.
In addition, they have called upon the church to join in the fasting “as an integral part of life and worship,” as well as adopting more practical measures such as using renewable energy sources “as quickly as possible” on church property, nurturing biodiversity on church land, and conserving water on church property.
The Anglican church is currently debating whether to sell its holdings in fossil fuels from its £6.1 billion fund. Doing so would bring it in line with the United Methodist church, whilst the The Unitarians and United Church of Christ are also reported to be divesting. Meanwhile the Pope has indicated that he will be releasing an encyclical on climate change ahead of the next international climate conference in Paris later this year.
A spokeswoman for the church’s commissioners said: “We are committed to completing the review of our climate change policy before the General Synod in July. We believe climate change is an urgent ethical issue and share the objectives of the bishops in transitioning to a low carbon economy.
“We believe there are many ways of practicing ethical investment including active engagement with companies and policy makers, as demonstrated in our activist resolutions to Shell and BP to be debated at their forthcoming AGMs.”