FIVE dioceses and one cathedral, Leicester, are among 35 Christian institutions which this week announced they would divest from fossil fuel companies.
The announcement comes as oil and gas giants threaten to accelerate global warming with plans to spend nearly $1 trillion on new fossil fuel projects. The expansions come despite warnings from the International Energy Agency that no new oil and gas fields are needed if the world is to meet the Paris climate target of 1.5C and avoid the worst. impacts of climate change.
Although the Church of England still invests nationally in fossil fuel companies, the five dioceses – Birmingham, Durham, Leicester, Newcastle and Worcester – are among 11 that have divested from fossil fuels in the past 15 last months.
Other church institutions that divested this week include two Roman Catholic dioceses, the Methodist Church of Ireland, several local churches and 11 RC religious orders.
The Bishop of Dudley in the Diocese of Worcester, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, said: “We are facing a climate emergency, and it is up to all of us, as churches and as individuals, to do what we can to protect this planet for future generations. . In addition to how we heat our homes and churches, how we travel and live, this stewardship responsibility extends to where we invest our money.
Of all the commitments to divest from fossil fuels globally, about 35% have been made by faith-based institutions, more than any other sector. Activists say churches, seen as morally-minded investors, have the power to strip fossil fuel companies of their social and political influence by divesting.
James Buchanan, director of the Bright Now campaign at Operation Noah, which focuses on church divestment, said: “Today religious institutions around the world are making a bold and powerful statement that it is contrary to the ethics of investing in an industry that fuels climate, conflict and the cost of living crisis.
“As 20 fossil fuel companies, including BP, Shell, Exxon and Total, plan to spend nearly $1 trillion on new fossil fuel developments that the UN secretary-general has called ‘delusional’, we call the Church of England and the [Roman] The Catholic Church in England and Wales to choose life, divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in clean energy that will solve the multiple crises we face.
Church leaders are increasingly taking the lead in calling for action to address climate change. Last year, more than 20 Anglican bishops from southern Africa, including the Archbishop of Cape Town, the three bishops of Mozambique and the Bishop of Namibia called for an immediate halt to oil and gas exploration in Africa. Earlier this year, more than 500 UK church leaders, including 68 Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, joined some of the UK’s largest Christian NGOs in calling on the UK government to halt all new fossil fuel development.
The Reverend Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, will attend this month’s Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. She said the activities of fossil fuel companies that are still funded by the Church of England often lead to impoverishment, ecological damage, war and human rights abuses in African communities. “The oil curse is real,” she said. “Oil companies promise huge profits and prosperity, but the reality is they leave pollution and political upheaval behind.”