Church investment in climate solutions report launch webinar


On Tuesday 22 November, over 100 people joined us for a webinar launching our new report, Church Investment in Climate Solutions: Financing a Liveable Future.

Featured speakers included report co-authors Julia Corcoran and James Buchanan (Bright Now Campaign Manager and Bright Now Campaign Director at Operation Noah), Lorna Gold (Director of Movement Building at FaithInvest and Chair of Laudato Si’ Movement), John O’Shaughnessy (CFO of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and Co-Chair of the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative), Mike Sturgess (Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance in the Diocese of Truro (CofE)) and Stephen Trew (member of the Church of Ireland General Synod and campaigner). The event was chaired by our Bright Now Campaign Officer, Bokani Tshidzu.

Below are some highlights of what was said (watch the full webinar here).

James Buchanan, Operation Noah’s Bright Now Campaign Director 

‘Why has Operation Noah started focusing more on investment in climate solutions? Many of you will be familiar with our work on fossil fuel divestment – and now most UK Churches have divested from fossil fuel companies – but it’s really important as well for (Churches) to consider how they can invest for positive change in the world.’

‘We know that investment in climate solutions, such as renewable energy, needs to scale up rapidly if we’re going to have any chance of limiting global heating to 1.5°C.’

‘Some UK Churches… are already taking a lead in this area (investment in climate solutions). But there’s definitely much further to go. And we hope that this report will provide inspiration and practical steps for faith investors and for campaigners to engage on this crucial issue.’ 

‘Immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors are needed if we’re to have any chance of limiting heating to 1.5°C…(and) as they have in the fossil fuel divestment movement, Churches can shift markets (with their investments).’ 

‘Divestment from fossil fuel companies and investment in climate solutions are two sides of the same coin. The ethical investment process doesn’t end with divestment.’ 

Julia Corcoran, Operation Noah’s Bright Now Campaign Manager 

‘The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that 3.6 billion people are living in a situation where they are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is a current crisis. On top of the climate crisis, we also have an energy crisis which has been worsened by the war in Ukraine.’

‘According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, if the world redirects the $570 billion annual planned for new oil and gas investments towards renewables, this could fully finance wind and solar energy expansion in line with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement.’ 

‘So for greater energy security, we need to increase renewable energy, as well as investments in better energy infrastructure, such as energy storage. Churches can lead the way.’

‘In our report, we look at four reasons why Churches should be investing in climate solutions. The first is caring for creation…our second reason is loving our neighbour…our third reason is acting with hope…and (fourth), investment (in climate solutions) is a prophetic action.’

‘Investment is a journey, and Churches need to get started on that journey.’ 

Lorna Gold, Director of Movement Building at FaithInvest and Chair of Laudato Si’ Movement:

‘I want to first of all congratulate Operation Noah…on such an important step forward in outlining the steps the Church is taking and could take in supporting climate action. I hope this report reaches the audience…it needs to in the coming months.’ 

‘Investing in the status quo is actually a climate disaster. And it’s madness after decades of science…that the investment world and the regulatory environment which shapes it…is still unable to embrace the (need for) climate emissions reductions.’ 

‘When you divest, you’re applying the ethical principle of “do no harm”…however, a negative approach is nowhere near enough…it’s selling ourselves short. (We)…can do so much more to support the emergence of a new economy. I would say it’s our moral duty to do so.’ 

‘Our investments are not just for today or tomorrow, but for eternity.’ 

Mike Sturgess, Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance for the CofE Diocese of Truro:

‘This is going to be the story of a journey, a journey that we took in the Diocese of Truro, from, picking up on Lorna’s point, first doing no harm, divesting from fossil fuel, but then, secondly, doing good.’ 

‘It is a story, it is not investment advice, I hope that goes without saying…we started with the diocese coming up with a creation care strategy, with three pillars – the first one, to cherish creation, the second, to cut carbon, and then to speak up.’ 

‘Every committee and grouping within the diocese was asked how to come up with the objectives to meet those three particular (pillars). And in particular, we were looking at the requirements to try and get to net zero (carbon) by 2030. And so each committee sent in their targets and we then looked at those.’ 

‘Our (investing) journey started back in 2020; we invested £1 million (across three funds), and we decided to invest it in infrastructure…we were treating infrastructure as a substitute for bonds, and when you look at the bond market recently, we’re really glad that we put it into infrastructure instead. One (of the funds we invested in) was purely renewables.’ 

‘We had another amount to invest in 2021, and we continued to invest in infrastructure funds. (It was) the first time we’ve actually invested directly, all the other times we have used fund managers. So we’re now starting to invest directly, though we still use fund managers, of course.’ 

‘All three of these funds (in which we invested in 2021) were in renewables, so by now we were into onshore and offshore wind, solar panels, hydro and battery storage. So, as I said, this is all driven by our strategy and our objectives from the investment committee.’ 

‘Three of our six infrastructure companies have actually increased in value.’ 

John O’Shaughnessy, Chief Financial/Investment Officer at the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative:

‘(FSM) started (investing for impact) 10 years ago, and what we discovered…is that we could make investments that had (positive) impact that would generate market rate returns, and for us, that was important – we needed to be able to support our needs as a community.’ 

‘The compelling thing was we discovered we could do mission with our resource, this resource of investable capital…and if you know the Sisters, you know that it’s all about mission.’ 

‘The mission of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary is to be the presence of the loving, serving, compassionate, healing Jesus. Now they went further to say the focus of the mission is on compassionate care of creation in collaboration with others.’ 

‘So with this focus, it really helped me, as the person who oversees investments, to have something to really work with.’ 

‘When we realised we could do this kind of mission-driven investing, it was like, wow – it’s like seeing this landscape and just being in awe of the possibilities of it.’

Stephen Trew, member of the Church of Ireland General Synod and campaigner:

‘I am simply a passionate parishioner who has called for change, and it is a real privilege to be able to share with you how the Church of Ireland has transformed its investment strategy in recent years.’ 

‘The Church of Ireland’s Representative Church Body, or RCB, completed full divestment from fossil fuel extraction companies at the end of 2021. It moved €50 million out of these fossil fuel companies and into clean funds instead.’ 

‘And the RCB has really transformed its investment strategy over these years, and it’s increasingly focusing on investing in climate solutions.’

‘Just a couple examples of what they’ve done: they invest in sustainably-managed forestry here in Ireland, and also in an Irish property fund that is aiming to be operationally net zero by 2030, as well as building net zero constructions, buildings, by that time as well.’ 

‘And then globally, it’s investing in infrastructure funds, such as ones that improve electrification across the Americas for transport – electric buses, that kind of thing.’ 

‘We don’t want to be investing in destruction…and it’s not just campaigners who are saying this…we can respond…by speaking the truth, prophetically, which sometimes means doing it again, and again and again.’ 

‘Identify who the (financial) decision-makers are (in your Church), and then build up a relationship with them.’ 

Bookmark and Share