Faith institutions join global divestment movement

7th July 2022

Web Church South of England credit i Stock 1225608423

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Chris Seekings

More than 30 faith groups have this week joined a global commitment to divest from fossil fuel companies, describing current oil and gas expansion plans as “dangerous”.

The 33 Christian institutions, 19 of which are from the UK, have pledged to divest from any investments in fossil fuels within five years at the latest, and to not invest in the sector in the future.

This includes five Church of England dioceses, two Catholic dioceses, two United Reformed Church synods and several local churches in the UK, 11 Catholic religious orders, and two Jesuit universities in the US.

The new commitment comes just one week after the Methodist Church of Britain endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the Church of Scotland has called for no new fossil fuel extraction.

Faith institutions now represent over 35% of all divestment commitments globally – more than any other single sector.

William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow, said that is going to be an “embarrassment” for any Catholic institution that hasn’t divested.

He added: “This has gone from a purely symbolic gesture to something much, much more than that. Because we’re now advocating, and Pope Francis is advocating as well, for a complete change of lifestyle.”

Most major Christian denominations in the UK have now fully divested from fossil fuels, with the notable exceptions of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England.

Last year, more than 20 Anglican bishops in Southern Africa called for an immediate halt to oil and gas exploration in Africa, while earlier this year, more than 500 UK Church leaders urged the government to stop all new fossil fuel developments.

However, 20 fossil fuel companies – including Shell, Total, BP and ExxonMobil – are moving ahead with fossil fuel expansion plans totalling $932bn (£777bn) that could push the world past 1.5°C of heating.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign director at Operation Noah, which helped organise the latest divestment commitment, said that it is unethical to invest in an industry that is fuelling climate change, conflict and the cost-of-living crises.

He added: “As 20 fossil fuel companies plan to spend nearly $1trn on new fossil fuel developments which the UN secretary general has described as ‘delusional’, we call on the Church of England and the 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.”

Image credit: iStock


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