The Jesuit order in Britain announced Wednesday they are dumping fossil fuel stocks from their $517,500 investment portfolio because of the fuel companies’ complicity in the “climate crisis.”
“Our trustees took the decision to completely divest from oil, gas and coal-producing companies because they felt these companies were not making enough progress towards better solutions,” said Jesuit Brother Stephen Power, the order’s British Province Treasurer.
“Climate change is the most pressing challenge the world faces as climate disasters wreak more and more destruction, hitting poorer countries the hardest — despite them having done the least to cause them,” said Father Damian Howard, SJ, the Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits.
Father Howard said that the decision was a response to the “clear moral imperative” of safeguarding the planet for future generations at a time when “scientific evidence is mounting that we are facing a grave climate emergency.”
Among other holdings, the Jesuits in Britain are more than halfway through the process of divesting themselves of equity ownership in British Petroleum, Shell Oil, and the French multinational Total, S.A.
The Jesuits have been part of a group of institutional shareholders in Barclays who have pressured the bank to phase out all its financing of fossil fuel companies.
A resolution drawn up by the group, which accounts for some £130 billion in investments at the bank, would oblige Barclays to draft a plan to stop providing financial services to companies in the energy sector “that are not aligned with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.”
“The world must respond to the enormous challenges and opportunities of climate change with far greater urgency,” said Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions.
“We see the impact of climate change on communities everywhere and it is the poorest, most marginalised people who suffer most,” Chitnis said. That is why the British public expect the UK to meet its climate commitments, including credible net-zero policies with the public and private investment necessary to achieve them.”
“Every action ripples out, healing or hurting others,” said Father Howard, suggesting that the time of Lent offers a great opportunity to “tackle climate chaos together.”
“Our Jesuit communities are also working to develop more sustainable ways of living, switching to green electricity and getting rid of some of their cars,” he said.
The Society of Jesus (“Jesuits”) is a Roman Catholic religious order founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1540.
According to Saint Ignatius, the Jesuits were founded “to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”
In 2013, Pope Francis became the first Jesuit to be elected pope in the history of the Catholic Church.