35 global faith institutions announce divestment and call for no new fossil fuels


Today, in a direct challenge to the fossil fuel industry’s dangerous expansion plans and increasingly empty rhetoric on climate, 35 faith institutions from seven countries – including five Church of England dioceses, two Catholic dioceses in the UK and a Church of England cathedral – announced their divestment from fossil fuel companies. In total, 19 of the 35 institutions joining the announcement are from the UK.

Organised by the World Council of Churches, Operation Noah, Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith, this latest divestment announcement comes from faith institutions in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the UK and the US, and comes just three weeks before Anglican bishops from around the world gather for the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

Both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the UN have warned against new fossil fuel projects anywhere in the world, as scientists say we cannot safely burn the vast majority of fossil fuels still in the ground. Yet just nine months after world leaders pledged to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, 20 fossil fuel companies – including Shell, Total, BP and ExxonMobil – are moving ahead with fossil fuel expansion plans totalling $932 billion that would push the world past 1.5°C of heating. Meanwhile, governments including the US, Canada, the UK, Norway and Australia continue to approve new fossil fuel developments that will put 1.5°C out of reach. 

Institutions divesting from fossil fuels include five Church of England dioceses (the Diocese of Birmingham, the Diocese of Durham, the Diocese of Leicester, the Diocese of Newcastle and the Diocese of Worcester); two Catholic dioceses (the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Leeds); 11 Catholic religious orders; the Methodist Church in Ireland; two United Reformed Church Synods (the North Western Synod and the East Midlands Synod); a Church of England cathedral (Leicester Cathedral); Friends Provident Foundation; and several local churches in the UK.

Most major Christian denominations in the UK have now fully divested from fossil fuels, with the notable exceptions of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales. While the Church of England is still invested in fossil fuels at a national level – along with a dozen individual dioceses – 11 CofE dioceses have now divested from fossil fuels within the last 18 months, up from zero. In February, six Church of England bishops, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury and 130 clergy, called on the CofE’s Church Commissioners to divest from ExxonMobil.

Revd Dr Rachel Mash, who is the Environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and plans to attend this month’s Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, says the ‘oil curse’ is real – promises of fossil-fuelled prosperity for African communities that instead lead to impoverishment, ecological damage, war and human rights violations. ‘Oil companies promise vast profits and prosperity, but the reality is that they leave pollution and political upheaval,’ she said.

Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Ecology Sector in the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, which assists Pope Francis’ work on the environment, said: ‘In 2020, the Vatican called on Catholic institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies given their harm to the environment. I applaud these prophetic institutions divesting today and encourage every institution in the world to reduce our dependence on such harmful energy sources by divesting from fossil fuels. This is how prophetic institutions can live out our values and help the most vulnerable among us. If we want to achieve peace, and ensure a liveable planet for all, including the future generations, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels that fuel the current climate crisis.’

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Director at Operation Noah, said: ‘Today, faith institutions around the world are making a bold and powerful statement that it is unethical to invest in an industry that is fuelling the climate, conflict and the cost-of-living crises. As 20 fossil fuel companies including BP, Shell, Exxon and Total plan to spend nearly $1 trillion on new fossil fuel developments which the UN Secretary General has described as ‘delusional’, we call on the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to choose life, divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in clean energy that will address the multiple crises we face.’

Divest your church

If you would be interested in getting your local church or regional Church structures (dioceses and equivalents) to make a divestment commitment, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org for further information or to register your interest.

Organisations joining the global divestment announcement:

A full list of the 35 institutions divesting from fossil fuels and quotes from leaders can be found here.

The UK organisations announcing their divestment commitments are as follows:

  • Methodist Church in Ireland
  • Archdiocese of Armagh 
  • Diocese of Birmingham
  • Diocese of Durham
  • Diocese of Leicester
  • Diocese of Newcastle
  • Diocese of Worcester
  • Diocese of Leeds
  • URC North Western Synod
  • URC East Midlands Synod
  • Friends Provident Foundation
  • Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth Generalate
  • Friars Minor in Great Britain
  • Leicester Cathedral
  • Baildon Methodist Church
  • St Paul’s Church, Marylebone
  • St Paul’s Church, Rossendale
  • St Andrew’s and All Saints, Skegby with Stanton Hill
  • St Katherine’s Teversal

Statements from leaders:

Most Revd William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow and Lead Bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, which divested from fossil fuel companies in October 2021, said: ‘I think it’s going to get to the stage, it will be an embarrassment for any Catholic institution that hasn’t divested. This has gone from a purely symbolic gesture to something much, much more than that. Because we’re now advocating, and Pope Francis is advocating as well, (for) a complete change of lifestyle. We have to change our lifestyle.’

Rt Revd Martin Gorick, Bishop of Dudley in the Diocese of Worcester, said: ‘We are facing a climate emergency and it’s up to all of us, as churches and as individuals, to do what we can to protect this planet for future generations. As well as how we heat our homes and churches, how we travel and live, this stewardship responsibility extends to where we invest our money.’

Most Revd Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, said: ‘It is clear that many members of our congregations, especially our young people, feel we have a responsibility to take action with regard to the challenges of climate change and climate justice. We all share responsibility for the problems facing our world, but equally, we share responsibility for finding the solutions. Each one of us must accept our personal and collective need to change and make sacrifices, recognising the inherent issues of justice and fairness that are involved, and realising, as Pope Francis says, that “the cry of the earth” is especially “the cry of the poor”. Climate change is already having a disproportionate impact on those who are on the margins, those most dependent on fragile ecosystems and most vulnerable to famine, to drought, to food and water insecurity and conflict, to exploitative and “predatory economic interests”, to the destruction of their homes and displacement of their families.’

‘From a faith point of view, God is calling us to be caring stewards of creation, to protect and nourish our planet and its resources, and not to selfishly waste them or ruthlessly and excessively exploit and destroy them. I support fully the decision of the Directors of the St Patrick’s Archdiocesan Trust to continue its commitment to a policy of divestment from fossil fuels, and I encourage others to consider similar action.’

Revd Mark Nash-Williams, Bishop’s Adviser on the Environment for the Diocese of Newcastle, said: ‘We are very proud to have already divested from fossil fuels, and have now also pledged not to hold any investments in companies linked to the extraction of oil, gas and coal in future. As Christians, one of our fundamental priorities is to care for God’s creation and protect our planet from climate change which is sadly happening at a terrifying speed. Anything we can do right now to halt and potentially reverse this damage is a step in the right direction.’

Sr Hannah Dwyer, Treasurer General of the Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth Generalate, said,: ‘The Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth has recently reviewed its investment policy and investment strategy, following which we have made changes to our centrally held investments and have fully divested them from fossil fuels. We are very pleased that our investments are now aligned with Catholic teachings and Laudato Si. We wholeheartedly support the campaign for fossil-free churches and living a less damaging, more climate-friendly way.’

Andrew Jenkins, on behalf of the Peace and Justice Group at St Andrew’s and All Saints, Skegby with Stanton Hill and St Katherine’s Teversal, said: ‘We joined the Young Christian Climate Network pilgrimage as they passed near our village between the G7 in Cornwall and COP26 in Glasgow. They impressed us very much and we believe strongly in the needs for effective action on climate change. We also support the Christian Aid Climate Justice campaign – one of our members works in climate change adaptation in the Bay of Bengal and sees the impact of rising sea levels at first hand. One of our churches has replaced its heating system with green electricity and we have been in continuous contact with the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham requesting divestment from fossil fuels; we pray for progress on that.’

David Hopley, who represents the Statutory Trustees of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said: ‘The committee determined that the slow pace of corporate change means that the oil and gas sector is failing to meet the standards set by the Paris Accord. After a full assessment, against up to 25 different metrics, it was concluded that Shell, along with its peers, is currently failing to play a substantial enough role in addressing the climate emergency.’

Rt Revd Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds (Catholic), said: ‘We have now divested ourselves of the few remaining investments in fossil fuel companies. As we continue to strive for realistic, achievable, incremental goals, specific to the needs and context of our local ecology, we are also respectful of the worldwide environment. Care for Our Common Home is woven into our Diocesan Family life; not only do we proclaim ‘Laudato Si’!’ with our words, but also give praise to Him in all our deeds!’

Revd Geoffrey Clarke, Moderator of the United Reformed Church East Midlands Synod, said: ‘Fossil fuel divestment is a positive means of ensuring our financial stewardship reflects a serious stewardship of the earth’s resources. Too many of our sisters and brothers are already suffering unduly through the climate crisis. Our commitment to divestment today is a small step towards the chance of investment in a better tomorrow for them and for our planet.’

Revd Clare Dowding, Rector of St Paul’s Marylebone and Area Dean of Marylebone: ‘St Paul’s, as a recent recipient of an Eco Church Gold award, is committed to putting creation care at the heart of every aspect of our common life. This includes those few investments we have, which we have and will continue to ensure are supporting our planet rather than fossil fuel companies.’

Dr Svitlana Romanko, Stand With Ukraine Campaign Coordinator, said: ‘I want to congratulate the faith institutions that have made a critical decision to divest from fossil fuels on a massive scale. Their decision is a powerful step towards peace in Ukraine and towards phasing out fossil fuels globally while tackling the energy and climate crises. At this decisive and grim moment of modern history, they are way ahead of the world leaders who still allow billions for Russian oil and gas to flow into Putin’s war machine. It is urgent and necessary to make sure that Russian gas and oil reserves become permanently unrecoverable – stranded – and cannot fuel more wars. For that, we demand that governments speed up investments in renewable energy, stop funding fossil fuel expansion and put public money where it needs to be: in a peaceful, prosperous and clean energy future for all.’

David Ugolor, Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), said: ‘The most recent IPCC report found that half of the world’s population are highly vulnerable to the climate crisis. Last year, the International Energy Agency concluded that no new oil and gas fields should be approved if the world is to stay within safe climate limits. Yet, despite the urgent need to wind down fossil fuel production, fossil fuel companies plan to continue to invest billions of dollars in oil and gas. Shell, ExxonMobil and Total have been active in the Niger Delta since the 1930s, leaving local communities with little more than pollution, destruction of livelihoods and blood. It is beyond time that these companies were finally held to account. We must win – where others have tried and failed.’

Chris Manktelow, Joint Communications Lead at the Young Christian Climate Network, said: ‘Fossil fuel investments contribute to climate change, fuel conflict, and destabilise communities. Faith institutions should not be lending their financial and moral authority to an industry that is undermining our future. The Young Christian Climate Network fully supports this global call for divestment. We urge faith institutions to break their ties with the fossil fuel industry and to invest in fairer, cleaner ways of generating energy.’

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