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UK News

Faith institutions announce £1bn divestment from oil companies

by Tola Mbakwe

In a bid to lessen the effects of climate change, 35 faith institutions have announced their divestment from fossil fuels, 19 of which are from the UK.

The institutions dropping the investment of fossil fuels include five Church of England dioceses, two Catholic diocese and two United Reformed Church synods, amongst churches from a number of other denominations.

The move comes after campaigning from the World Council of Churches, Operation Noah, Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith.

Cameron Conant from Operation Noah told Premier: “I think increasingly, churches and faith groups are understanding that this is about whole life discipleship, and so where we invest our money is actually as important as how we treat someone who lives next door to us, because things, impact people.

“I think what we're trying to do is connect the dots for folks to say where we put our money, as a church as a denomination, has to reflect our values as Christians, and to make sure that money isn't harming people.

“This divestment announcement alone, we're talking about institutions that represent over £1 billion in total assets under management.”

The massive divestment comes 20 fossil fuel companies – including Shell, Total, BP and ExxonMobil – are moving ahead with fossil fuel expansion plans totalling $932 billion that Conant says would push the world past 1.5°C of heating.

Both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the United Nations have warned against new fossil fuel projects anywhere in the world, as scientists have said we cannot safely burn the vast majority of fossil fuels still in the ground.

Conant added: “What we understand increasingly with fossil fuels, is that these companies on average, invest only about 5 per cent of their capital investment in renewables. Now, I think that would be wildly surprising to lots of people. Because if you look at fossil fuel companies’ adverts or you go to their social media or their websites, you would basically think that they're renewable energy companies, that they just spend their time putting up solar panels and wind turbines, when in fact, they spend 95 per cent of their time and money getting fossil fuels out of the ground. And they've got lots more plans in the near future.”

Christian Climate Action, a faith-based branch of Extinction Rebellion, have also campaigned on the matter, disrupting a service in Wells Cathedral with banners and placards to protest the continued use of fossil fuels by twelve Church of England dioceses.

At a national level, the Church of England is still investing in fossil fuels, despite the Church of Scotland and the Methodist Church calling for an end to the energy source.

Faith institutions now account for more than 35 per cent of all divestment commitments globally, more than any other sector.

Most Rev William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow and Lead Bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, which divested from fossil fuel companies in October 2021, said: ‘I think it’s going to get to the stage, it will be an embarrassment for any Catholic institution that hasn’t divested. 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. We have to change our lifestyle.’

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