Forty-two progressive faith-based institutions from 14 countries announced are divesting from the fossil fuel industry, the largest ever such joint announcement from religious groups.
Vatican News reported the religious institutions abandoning fossil fuels hail from “the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed, Baptist, Quaker and Buddhist traditions.”
The effort has been coordinated by the UK-based Operation Noah as part of its Bright Now campaign. Operation Noah was joined by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans, and GreenFaith in making the announcement.
Vatican News went on to cite the director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission for the Catholic Archdiocese of Semarang, in Indonesia, who connected the coronavirus pandemic to climate change as part of the same ecological death spiral.
“In this COVID-19 pandemic, it is the exact time not only to reflect, but to act,” he said. “We have to stop our ecological spiral of death. We have to revive our ecological hope, in massive repentance of humankind, by taking the pathway to more sustainable living.”
According to Operation Noah, this week’s announcement was timed to coincide with government investment in a global economic recovery, in an attempt to sway leaders “to think long term and focus on a recovery that is low-carbon and just.”
“Fossil fuels do not have a place in the long-term health of humanity,” said Mark Campanale, Founder and Executive Chair of Carbon Tracker. “Faith institutions’ commitment to create a better world is leadership that governments should follow.”
Operation Noah also cited the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who urged humanity to reduce its “lethal dependence on fossil fuels.”
“The current health crisis has highlighted as never before the need for coherent international action in the face of global threat,” the archbishop said. “Can we learn the lesson and apply it to the global threat of climate change?”
For her part, Reba Elliott from the Global Catholic Climate Movement said that climate change brings with it a “higher risk of respiratory disease and hunger” and divesting from fossil fuels will benefit the poor.
The group’s executive director, Tomás Insua, went further still, insisting that every dollar invested in fossil fuel companies “is a vote for suffering.”
James Buchanan, the Bright Now campaign manager at Operation Noah, said it is “unethical to invest in fossil fuel companies” during the present “climate emergency.”
One of the groups involved in the divestment is the Jesuit order in Britain, which already announced in February they would be dumping fossil fuel stocks from their $517,500,000 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.
Last week the Vatican announced a special “anniversary year” to commemorate Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter on the environment, Laudato Sì.
The pope’s “watershed” encyclical “called the world’s attention to the increasingly precarious state of our common home,” declared a press release from the Vatican’s department of integral human development.
“Five years on the encyclical appears ever more relevant,” it stated. “The multiple cracks in the planet that we inhabit, from the melting ice caps in the Arctic to the raging wildfires in the Amazon, from extreme weather patterns around the world to unprecedented levels of loss of biodiversity that sustain the very fabric of life, are too evident and detrimental to be ignored any more.”
The message of Laudato Sì is “just as prophetic today as it was in 2015,” the communiqué declared, especially as nations struggle to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic.