Commitments highlight need for governments to increase ambition on climate action
Rome — Today, 47 faith institutions announce their divestment from fossil fuels, making the largest-ever joint announcement of divestment among religious leaders. These include Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish institutions from 21 countries.
Participating institutions include the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, American Jewish World Service, and Anglican and Methodist churches across the United Kingdom. The full list of participating institutions is here.
The announcement coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement on climate change. Faith leaders’ action puts pressure on government leaders, and their commitment to clean energy stands in stark contrast with many governments’ failure to deliver ambitious energy strategies.
Recently, in preparation for the G20 meeting that begins on 21 November, environment ministers released a statement that was widely seen as rubber-stamping fossil fuel bailouts and removed a long-standing G20 call for the end to fossil fuel subsidies. As preparation for the G20 continues to ramp up under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, many policy-watchers have concluded that five years after the Paris Agreement was first reached, governments are not yet sufficiently independent of the influence of the fossil fuel industry.
While government leaders cling to the economic models of yesterday, faith leaders are looking ahead to the energy future we share. With renewables now growing at a faster pace than fossil fuels, institutional investors are increasingly moving toward sustainable investments in the clean energy economy. Faith investors help lead this movement, constituting the single-largest source of divestment in the world, making up one-third of all commitments. To date, nearly 400 religious institutions have committed to divest.
Pressure from faith investors and others has exposed the inherent weakness of the fossil fuel industry, with Royal Dutch Shell now citing divestment as a material risk to its business.
Today’s announcement demonstrates that people of many faith traditions are committed to a better future in clean energy. Among Catholics, Pope Francis has convened an “Economy of Francesco” conference, slated to begin 19 November, that explores innovative ways Catholics are developing a sustainable economy, with leadership from young people front and center. This conference follows an announcement in June, when the Vatican encouraged all Catholics to divest from fossil fuels as part of its first-ever operational guidance on ecology.
National and international leaders welcomed today’s announcement.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, 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.”
Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, said “We decided to divest from fossil fuels earlier this year to align fully how we invest our funds with our global grantmaking to combat climate change and secure climate justice for the most vulnerable people in the world, ensuring that we live our Jewish values and take up our enduring commitment to repair our broken world.”
Fr. Manuel Enrique Barrios Prieto, COMECE Secretary-General, said “COMECE joins the Catholic movement to divest from fossil fuels. We encourage others also to join us in taking concrete steps to solve the climate crisis. Commitments to the Paris climate agreement is important, and the European Green Deal is a way of doing so. Solving the climate crisis protects the human family from the dangers of a warming world, and decisive action is needed now more than ever.”
Enrico Giovannini, former Minister of Labour and Social Policies for Italy and founder and director of the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, said “The Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development supports the fossil fuel divestment campaign launched by the Catholic world which sends a strong signal of change, particularly relevant in the context of the pandemic we are experiencing. The disastrous impacts of climate change are the direct consequence of bad decisions and inertia, both in the past and today. We need concrete solutions and to redirect funding for polluting sources in the direction of sustainable development, a fundamental act for creating a more just, equitable and inclusive world.”
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