Expanding the Bright Now campaign: Divestment, investment and Church land


Earlier this year, Operation Noah received a two-year grant for the Bright Now campaign, which has enabled us to recruit two new staff members and expand the focus of the campaign.

Alongside our work on fossil fuel divestment, we can now scale up our work with UK Churches on investment in climate solutions, and encourage the Church of England to manage its land more sustainably.

Julia Corcoran, our new Bright Now Campaign Manager, is leading our work on Church investment in climate solutions, such as renewable energy. Sharon Hall, our Bright Now Campaign Officer, is leading our work on Church land use and nature-based solutions.

Bright Now and fossil fuel divestment

Fossil fuel divestment continues to be a major priority for the Bright Now campaign. Thanks to the amazing efforts of our supporters, most UK Churches have now made commitments to divest from fossil fuel companies.

However, the two largest Churches in the UK – the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales – continue to invest in fossil fuel companies. Yet the tide is turning. Around a quarter of CofE dioceses – 10 out of 42 – have now made divestment commitments, and 9 out of 22 Catholic dioceses have also divested.

We are continuing to work with our friends at Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans, the World Council of Churches and GreenFaith on a series of joint divestment announcements – with the next global divestment announcement taking place on 5 July 2022. Could your local church, diocese or faith institution make a divestment commitment and join the announcement?

We’re also organising several events providing opportunities to learn more and find out how you can get involved. These include a webinar on Tuesday 31 May entitled The Global Church and the Fossil Fuelled Five, with inspiring speakers including Bill McKibben, and our annual Supporters’ Event on Saturday 18 June, where we’ll hear from Svitlana Romanko (Stand with Ukraine Campaign Coordinator) and Bishop Manuel Ernesto (Bishop of Nampula in Northern Mozambique).

Working with Churches to scale up investment in climate solutions

The United Nations and International Energy Agency have both highlighted the urgent need for investment in clean energy, stating that private and public investment in renewable energy must treble to $4 trillion a year if we are to reach net zero by 2050 and limit global heating to 1.5°C.

In the years ahead, we will be working with all UK Church denominations at a national and regional level to encourage increased investment in climate solutions, such as renewable energy. We believe that Churches need to be at the forefront of accelerating the clean energy transition through their investment policies. 

We will be working with partners such as FaithInvest and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), as well as continuing to work closely with the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) on impact investing with Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

Some UK Churches have already demonstrated leadership in this area, including Quakers in Britain and the Diocese of Truro. During our COP26 webinar last October, Bishop Hugh Nelson shared how the Diocese of Truro has invested nearly £2 million in infrastructure funds that invest directly in renewable energy.

Encouraging the Church of England to manage its land more sustainably

The Church Commissioners – one of the three Church of England National Investing Bodies – are one of the biggest landowners in the UK, with 105,000 acres of rural land holdings. Between them, CofE dioceses manage around 70,000 acres of land.

In recent years, we have become increasingly aware of how the climate and biodiversity crises are interconnected. Depending on how land is managed, land use can have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions (as a carbon sink) or a negative impact on emissions (as a source of these emissions).

Photo by Adam Rhodes on Unsplash

While the Church Commissioners have some forestry investments, the proportion of tree coverage on Church-owned land is very low compared with other landowners. Research from campaigner Guy Shrubsole has estimated that only 3-4% of Church Commissioners’ land is wooded, compared with 15% of Crown land and 10% of RSPB land.

Through our campaigning on Church land use with other partners, we will encourage the Church Commissioners and CofE dioceses to assess their land use, increase tree coverage on their land (ensuring that the right trees are grown in the right places) and restore peatlands, which are one of the most important carbon sinks but can also release carbon dioxide when not managed sustainably.

We will be publishing reports on Church investment in climate solutions and Church land use in the next few months, so watch this space for more details and to find out how you can get involved!

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