Institutions lead the way in divestment from fossil fuels

Published on 8th Feb, 2021

Published in WelCom February 2021

As the climate crisis rages around the world, many of the world’s governments continue to cling to energy sources of the past.

Meanwhile many faith institutions around the world are committing to a brighter and cleaner future.

On 15 November last year, 47 faith institutions from 21 countries announced their commitment to divest from fossil fuels. Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish institutions make up the largest joint divestment from fossil fuels.

Together, they’re acting out their values and showing the world that faith institutions are committed to a safer future powered by the clean energy economy.

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.’

Pressure from faith investors and others has already exposed the inherent weakness of the fossil fuel industry, with Royal Dutch Shell now citing divestment as a material risk to its business.

Catholic institutions make up 42 of the 47 commitments in last November’s announcement. The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Caritas Asia, and the Association of US Catholic Priests are included. (

‘We encourage others also to join us in taking concrete steps to solve the climate crisis,’ Fr Manuel Enrique Barrios Prieto, COMECE Secretary-General, said. ‘Commitment 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.’

Pope Francis recently called on all Catholic organisations to divest from companies that ‘do not meet the parameters of integral ecology’ and to invest in organisations that prioritise ‘sustainability, social justice, and the promotion of the common good’.

His Holiness’ ‘Economy of Francesco’ online conference, 19-21 November last year, further explored innovative ways Catholics are developing a sustainable economy. Organisers of the three-day event, based in the Italian town of Assisi, and aimed at young economists and entrepreneurs, hoped to ‘give soul to the global economy by inspiring generations to put human dignity in first place’.

In June last year, the Vatican encouraged all Catholics to divest from fossil fuels as part of its first operational guidance on ecology.

These guidelines, which were jointly issued by all dicasteries of the Vatican, encouraged Catholics to avoid investing in companies that ‘harm human or social ecology (for example, through abortion or the arms trade), or environmental ecology (for example, through the use of fossil fuels).’

Catholics’ commitment to clean energy is part of the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.

Fifty years ago Pope Paul VI said that ‘everything is bound up together’ in the ‘living design of the Creator’, and warned that we risked ‘provoking a veritable ecological catastrophe’.

In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’, Pope Francis reminds us that ‘everything is connected’, in ‘one complex crisis which is both social and environmental’, and warns that ‘we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis’.

To date, a total of nearly 400 faith institutions have divested from fossil fuels.

Source: Novena/Global Catholic Climate Movement

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