24

Sep

2020

Global divestment announcement: 10 reasons to divest from fossil fuels

 

Together with our friends at the Global Catholic Climate Movement, World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith, Operation Noah is delighted to launch the next global divestment announcement for faith organisations, which will take place on 16 November 2020.

The global divestment announcement, which will coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, offers an opportunity to faith organisations to highlight the urgent need to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives.

The announcement will send a strong message to world leaders meeting at the G20 summit in November about the need for a green and just recovery from Covid-19. It will take place the week before the Economy of Francesco event, at which Pope Francis will give an online address to young economists and entrepreneurs from around the world.

Ivybridge Methodist Church celebrating their decision to divest from fossil fuels (photo credit: Sophie Phillips)

Here are 10 reasons why your church, diocese, Circuit, Synod or faith organisation should consider making a commitment to divest from fossil fuels this year.

1. The urgency of the climate crisis
The need to respond to the climate emergency has never been more urgent. From the severe winter floods in the UK earlier this year, to the devastating wildfires in the US and Australia, to the record 38°C temperatures in the Arctic, the impacts of the climate crisis are increasingly evident.

2. Support the call for a just and green recovery from Covid-19
As governments around the world invest significant sums in economic recovery packages, it is vital that these investments support a green and just recovery from Covid-19. Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres wrote that ‘these decisions will be the most important decision on climate change.’ Churches and faith institutions are calling for a just recovery from Covid-19 by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean alternatives.

3. The Vatican call for divestment from fossil fuels
In June 2020, the Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines, including an endorsement of fossil fuel divestment. The document, entitled Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Si’, was released on the fifth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’. The guidelines frame investing in fossil fuels as an ethical choice, on a par with other significant ethical choices.

4. Oil and gas companies continue exploration and extraction of new reserves
According to research reported in the Financial Times in April 2019, the oil and gas industry plans to spend nearly $5 trillion on the exploration and extraction of new reserves in the next decade, none of which is compatible with meeting the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. This has continued even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, Shell approved a massive $6.4 billion fossil gas project in Australia in April.

5. Fossil fuel companies are still lobbying against climate action
According to InfluenceMap research published in 2019, the five largest publicly listed oil and gas companies are spending $200 million a year on lobbying activities to block, control and delay climate policies. Shell, BP, Total, Equinor and Repsol all belong to trade associations such as the American Petroleum Institute, which have successfully lobbied for weaker environmental regulation in the US during the Covid-19 crisis.

6. Oil and gas companies’ green advertising is misleading
Alongside these lobbying activities, huge sums are spent on misleading advertising, which often gives the impression that oil companies are transforming into renewable energy companies. In reality, major oil companies planned to spend an average of just 3% of their capital expenditure on low carbon projects in 2019.

7. Churches and other institutions are divesting in larger numbers
In May 2020, 42 institutions – including 21 from the UK – announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels in the largest-ever divestment announcement by faith institutions. The group included the Jesuits in Britain, the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace (UK) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. In September, the mayors of 12 major cities in North America, Europe and Africa pledged to divest from fossil fuels and invest in green energy, buildings and transport.

Jesuits in Britain were one of the UK organisations involved in the global divestment announcement in May 2020 (photo credit: Bokani Tshidzu)

8. There is an increasing number of fossil free funds available
Following the United Reformed Church decision to divest from fossil fuels last year, CCLA Investment Management announced that its COIF Charities Ethical Investment Fund would complete divestment from fossil fuels by December 2019. More recently, CCLA’s CBF funds, which are managed on behalf of many Church of England dioceses and local churches, sold their last remaining shares in fossil fuel companies for financial reasons.

Epworth Investment Management, a subsidiary of the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, recently launched the Climate Stewardship Fund, a fossil free fund avoiding investments in fossil fuel companies, mining companies and other carbon-intensive industries.

9. The growing financial risk of fossil fuel investments
In December 2019, former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, spoke about the risk of investors in fossil fuel companies being left with ‘stranded assets’, noting that oil and gas companies have not been a good investment in recent years. Shell, BP and Equinor have significantly cut their dividend payments in recent months.

10. Divestment is working
The UN Environment Programme noted the effectiveness of divestment in its November 2019 report, The Production Gap: ‘Through fossil fuel divestment campaigns and other efforts, civil society groups and investors have placed social, political, and economic pressure on governments and companies to move away from supporting fossil fuel production.’

Divest your church

If you would be interested in getting your local church, regional Church structures (dioceses and equivalents) or religious order to make a divestment commitment, we would be delighted to hear from you.

This involves making a commitment to divest (disinvest) any investments in fossil fuel companies within a five year timeframe and a pledge not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.

Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org before 10 November 2020 for further information or to register your interest.

Global Divestment Announcement Statement- November 2020

The World Council of Churches, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Operation Noah, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith invite faith institutions from around the world to join a global divestment announcement on 16 November 2020.

The global divestment announcement, which will coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, offers an opportunity to faith organisations to highlight the urgent need to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives.

The announcement will send a strong message to world leaders meeting at the G20 summit in November about the need for a green and just recovery from Covid-19. It will take place the week before the Economy of Francesco event, at which Pope Francis will give an online address to young economists and entrepreneurs from around the world.

Divestment from fossil fuel holdings is a powerful act of faith that hundreds of religious institutions around the world have taken to respond to the climate emergency. It represents the shifting of investments out of an industry that is a primary cause of the climate crisis. Furthermore, an increasing number of values-driven investors are investing in solutions to the crisis, and are financing enterprises and initiatives providing access to clean, affordable energy, including zero-carbon energy solutions for the 850 million people without access to electricity.

Any groups interested in joining the announcement will confirm (i) that they have divested from fossil fuel investments; or (ii) that they will divest from any investments in fossil fuels as soon as possible, and within five years at the latest; or (iii) that they do not hold any fossil fuel investments and will not invest in fossil fuels in the future.

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