Written by: Kimberly White

A global coalition of faith institutions has come together to combat the climate crisis. 

Faith groups from around the globe announced their divestment from fossil fuels in a joint announcement from the Global Catholic Climate Movement, World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans, Operation Noah, and GreenFaith. 

“Every dollar invested in fossil fuels is a vote for suffering. These institutions are taking prophetic action to light the way towards a more just and sustainable future because now more than ever, we need to protect our communities and build a just recovery together,” said Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. 

The institutions represent a variety of faiths, including Catholic, Methodist, Buddhist, Quaker, Baptist, and Anglican. In total, the group has over £1.1 billion in assets under management. The coalition is urging governments to focus on creating a just, low-carbon future rather than return to business as usual following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 crisis shows us that our current way of living is unsustainable, we are sick because the Earth is sick.  We cannot go back to normal, we must grow back to a new way of sustainable living. As we move into a post COVID-19 era, we must move away from sources of energy that contribute to climate change and air pollution,” said Rev. Rachel Mash, Coordinator of Green Anglicans.

This year is critical for climate action if the world is to have a chance of averting a global crisis. A recent report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 7.6 percent annually over the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement will not be enough, the report warned. Bold action from governments, businesses, and organizations will be needed to reduce emissions at a faster pace. 

“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 Fr Damian Howard SJ, Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits. “The decision to divest is principally a response to the clear moral imperative of acting to safeguard our planet for future generations at a time when scientific evidence is mounting that we are facing a grave climate emergency.”

In February, the Jesuits in Britain made headlines when the group divested its £400 million equity portfolio from fossil fuels. 

“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. The severity of the climate emergency has made it crystal clear that action is needed more than words if climate action is to be effective,” said Br Stephen Power SJ, Treasurer and Secretary for the Jesuits in Britain. 

The announcement from the 42 institutions is indicative of a growing trend among faith communities. According to Operation Noah, faith communities represent an increasing number of divestment commitments globally. 

Faith communities are also embracing renewable energy technologies and strategies to become more sustainable. In 2019, England’s Salisbury Cathedral invested £25,000 into Salisbury Community Energy, enabling the installation of solar panels across seven sites, including the Cathedral cloisters. The Salisbury Cathedral has been approved for 92 solar panels

“The decisions we make now will affect the future of humanity for thousands of years. These faith institutions are showing strong leadership in response to the climate crisis, and we urge governments around the world to follow their lead in ending support for fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future,” said James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah.

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