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Global faith institutions ditch fossil fuel investments in response to climate emergency

by Will Maule
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47 faith institutions from 21 countries have announced their divestment from fossil fuels in direct response to the threat of climate change. The institutions choosing to ditch their investments include five Catholic religious orders in the UK, two United Reformed Church Synods and UK-based local Anglican and Methodist churches.

The announcement coincides with the fifth anniversary of the multilateral Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which laid out a central objective of keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees. The United States famously pulled out of the Paris Agreement in June 2017, despite being the second-largest producer of greenhouse gasses on the planet. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the accord soon after being sworn into office in January. 

In response to the latest commitments to tackle the issue, Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, said: "The economic power of faiths, turned to responsible investments and the green economy, can be a major driver of positive change, and an inspiration to others, as we rebuild better."

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Christian climate charity, Operation Noah, added: "It is hugely encouraging that so many faith institutions have stopped investing in the fossil fuel industry. Churches need to divest from fossil fuel companies as a practical response to the climate emergency ahead of COP26 next year. The UK government urgently needs to end all public support for fossil fuels at home and overseas." 

The United Reformed Church Southern Synod shifted its reserves into a new fund that excludes the oil, gas, and coal industries.

Rev Bridget Banks, Moderator of United Reformed Church Southern Synod, said: "We are pleased that we have been able to achieve this during the Covid lockdown. It’s an issue that we have been wrestling with for several years. It is good that we have now brought our investments into line with our commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of the Synod. Many of our local congregations are also exploring how to line up the ways they do things with their belief that this world is God’s world and God calls us to take care of it."

Fr Dermot Byrne, regional representative for the Mill Hill Missionaries (British Region), said: "Our members have always worked among the poorest and most disadvantaged in Africa, Asia and South America, and the pursuit of social equality and justice has always been a serious priority for us. Concern for what Pope Francis reminds us is ‘our common home’ has to be part of that pursuit. There can seem to be little that we can do to make an impact, but divestment from fossil fuels is a practical choice that is open to us all and may have far-reaching results.

"Consequently, we feel that such divestment is in line with Catholic social teaching and the spirit of the present age, and we are happy that we, as a region, are able to make this small contribution." 

Rev Vanessa Conant, rector of St Mary’s Walthamstow, said: "The climate crisis is the most critical issue facing our planet and, as Christians, we must act. People in my parish experience the impacts of this crisis every day through ill health related to air pollution and are worried about what we will leave future generations. It’s no longer acceptable to fund fossil fuels or assume these businesses will regulate themselves. We must divest, and must use our power to hasten the green energy revolution we need." 

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