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Catholic groups shun fossil fuels for climate action

Church welcomes largest-ever joint announcement of divestment among faith leaders

Catholic groups shun fossil fuels for climate action

The Global Catholic Climate Movement takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical 'Laudato si'. (Photo: AFP)

Some 46 faith-based institutes including Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups have committed to shun investment in fossil fuels and pledged not to partner with entities that invest in fossil fuels.

The coalition includes Caritas Asia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference in European Union, the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities in the US and the American Jewish World Service.

This is the largest-ever joint announcement of divestment among faith leaders, according to the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), a leading Catholic action group promoting climate justice through transformative actions since its inception in the Philippines in 2015. The movement takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical Laudato si'.

The latest commitment to fossil fuel divestment is the first that has been made after the Vatican’s first-ever operational guidance on the environment was issued.

These guidelines, which were jointly issued by all dicasteries of the Vatican, encourage 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),” Cheryl Dugan, program manager of the GCCM, said in the press statement.

Until today, some 400 faith-based groups have teamed up to shift to greener energies, she noted.

Father Augusto Zampini-Davies, adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s social-environmental ministry, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, appreciated the organizations’ pledge to divest from fossil fuels.

“We celebrate that Catholic institutions around the world are implementing the Vatican's guidelines on divestment from fossil fuels. Today’s announcement demonstrates that people of faith have both the wisdom and the courage to act,” said Father Augusto, an Argentine.

“The future of our economy is in clean energy, and the Catholic commitment is clear. We invite governments to join us in urgent, ambitious action to protect our common home.” 

James Gomes, director (programs) of Caritas Bangladesh, a member of Caritas Asia, said the announced divestment from fossil fuels is a timely and worthy step and more organizations can follow suit.

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“Caritas in Bangladesh is committed to both upholding human and environmental ecology and from that viewpoint we believe such climate action is big step forward. We have been implementing various projects and activities as put forward by Pope Francis in Laudato si' across the country,” Gomes told UCA News.

Though Caritas does not directly relate to divestment from fossil fuels, the agency has been at the forefront of various environmental actions such building green walls by planting trees as well as clean energy like solar power for daily consumptions.

“Two out of eight Caritas regions, Chittagong and Dinajpur, have solar energy projects. We were the first to introduce street lights and home power from solar panels in Rohingya refugee camps, which others have followed. We hope to prioritize and implement such projects in other places as well,” said Gomes. 

Burning of fossil fuels is a major cause of global warming that leads to melting of polar icebergs and rising sea levels, climatologists say.

Despite increased awareness about the harmful impact of fossil fuels and a shift toward green and renewable energies, fossil fuels will account for half the world’s total energy demand by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

Climate scientists warn that climate change resulting in a sea level rise will wipe out vast areas and hit 300 million people globally, including 42 million people in low-lying countries like Bangladesh, by 2050.

US-based group Climate Central predicts that the number of climate change-affected people will rise to 630 million by next century. At the current pace sea levels could rise between 60 centimeters and 2.1 meters this century.

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