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Global faith-based groups to stop funding fossil fuels

31 institutions from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Italy and France make assets off limits to fossil fuel companies
A picture taken on Nov. 30, 2019 shows a view of the Jaenschwalde Power Station near Peitz, eastern Germany

A picture taken on Nov. 30, 2019 shows a view of the Jaenschwalde Power Station near Peitz, eastern Germany. (Photo: John MacDougall/AFP)

Published: April 20, 2023 07:10 AM GMT
Updated: April 20, 2023 07:34 AM GMT

A total of 31 faith-based institutions from six countries have announced they will stop investing in fossil fuel companies as part of their commitment to tackling the global climate crisis.

The institutions from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Italy and France have joined a global league of faith-based groups who decided to make their assets off limits to fossil fuel companies, says a press release from the Laudato Si Movement, a global Catholic climate group.

More than half of all Church of England dioceses in the UK including the Diocese of London in one of Europe’s largest financial centers have joined the group, it said.

Half of all Catholic dioceses in England and Wales have also now pledged to permanently exclude fossil fuel investments, while in 2018, the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies said they would divest from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement by the end of 2023.

The total divestment announcement from the 31 institutions represents more than US$2 billion in assets under management.

The climate group says fossil fuel companies continue to overheat the planet, underinvest in renewables and still explore for oil and gas in violation of scientific warnings.

"Dozens of groups have already made divestment announcements"

Climate activists regret that despite an increasing number of Christian groups divesting on fossil fuels no Catholic diocese in France and the US has divested despite the Vatican urging Catholics to do so.

Though dozens of groups have already made divestment announcements, the call for faith groups to abandon fossil fuels is largely a grassroots movement led by people who understand the damage fossil fuel companies are doing and question the morality of faith groups funding an industry that causes extraordinary harm to people and the planet, the release said.

The climate group said that last month, the UN climate body issued a final warning, making it clear there was no room for new fossil fuel developments as emissions from existing developments would exceed the amount of carbon that can be emitted and still limit global heating to safe levels. 

However, 20 large fossil fuel companies — including Shell, BP, Total and ExxonMobil plan to spend nearly $1 trillion on new oil and gas by 2030.

Meanwhile, national governments — including the US, UK, Norway, Australia and Canada — continue to approve new fossil fuel projects in violation of scientific warnings, while in the seven years since the Paris Agreement, the world’s 60 largest private banks have financed the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $5.5 trillion.

In response, more faith groups are not only divesting from fossil fuels but also lobbying banks and insurers to stop funding new fossil fuel projects, switching banks and supporting the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, as the 85-million member Anglican Communion did in February, calling for a global moratorium on new fossil fuel developments and recommending churches back the initiative.

“We want to care for our brothers and sisters"

Leaders of faith groups who joined the movement said divesting from fossil fuels is the call of the time.

“Fossil fuel consumption is increasing year on year and temperatures are rising swiftly. The poorest and most vulnerable around the world are suffering most,” said Reverend Canon Giles Goddard, Vicar of St John’s Church in London's Waterloo district.

“We need a fundamental change in how the global carbon-reliant economy works, and divesting from fossil fuels is a vital first step,” he said. 

Roberta Vincini, a president of the Catholic Scouting Movement in Italy, said: “We want to care for our brothers and sisters who, in the exploited territories, live in the most painful conditions of poverty.

“We must live out the call of Pope Francis to change our lifestyle to defend our Common Home. We are already beyond the propitious moment to act,” she said. 

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