People of faith announce 31 global divestment commitments and urge other faith groups to divest


As fossil fuel companies continue to overheat the planet, underinvest in renewables and explore for new oil and gas in violation of scientific warnings, 31 faith institutions from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Italy and France joined today’s global divestment announcement, proclaiming no faith in fossil fuels by making their assets permanently off limits to fossil fuel companies. Today’s divestment announcement by faith institutions represents well over $2 billion in assets under management.

The UK shows what is possible, with nearly every major Christian denomination having divested, and over half of all Church of England dioceses now having made a divestment commitment, including the Diocese of London – home to Europe’s largest financial centre. 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 increasing number of UK divestment commitments has even led CCLA, which manages funds for many UK churches and dioceses, to exclude future investments in fossil fuels for Church of England Funds.

Faith institutions joining today’s global divestment announcement include seven Church of England dioceses, including the Diocese of London; six Church of England Cathedrals, including Canterbury Cathedral; two Catholic dioceses (Northampton in England and Catania in Italy); three Catholic religious orders, including the international Carmelite Order; two local churches in the UK; eight Catholic charities, including the Catholic Scouting Movement in Italy (AGESCI); one Catholic parish in Canada; the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle in Australia; and one Jewish institution. A full list is here

Today, faith campaigners also committed to redouble efforts to get more faith groups to take their money out of fossil fuels by calling on people of faith to help fill in the divestment map, clarifying which religious organisations have divested and which have yet to do so – something UK campaigners have identified as key to their success. However, divestment data on faith institutions in many countries is lacking. For example, in France, as in the US, there is no indication that a single Roman Catholic diocese has divested – this despite the Vatican urging Catholics to divest, and nine Bishops’ Conferences having made some form of divestment commitment or recommendation.

Yet the call for faith institutions to get out of 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. Over the past year, faith-based divestment advocates have written letters, prayed outside places of worship, met with financial decision-makers, submitted divestment motions and cycled hundreds of miles

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 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.

Today’s global divestment announcement by faith institutions was organised by the World Council of Churches, Operation Noah, Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans, Dayenu and GreenFaith, and comes just two days before Earth Day 2023, the theme of which is, ‘invest in our planet’. 

Religious institutions manage a combined $3 trillion of investments globally, and though there is still scope for significant improvement, faith groups have divested from fossil fuels more than any other sector. Both the Vatican and World Council of Churches have called for faith groups to take their money out of fossil fuel companies – which spend an average of just 5% of capital investment on renewables and low-carbon energy – and invest in climate solutions, such as renewables and battery storage, instead. Some faith groups are already doing this, but much more investment is needed

More than 1,500 institutions from all sectors, with combined assets of over $40 trillion, have made some form of fossil fuel divestment commitment, up from a starting point of $50 billion in 2014. Divestment not only removes the unwritten ‘social licence’ that fossil fuel companies rely on to operate, but also leads to real-world emissions reductions, makes financing new fossil fuel projects more expensive, and has wiped billions off the market value of fossil fuel companies

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 register your interest here.

Organisations joining the global divestment announcement:

A full list of the 31 institutions divesting from fossil fuels and quotes from campaigners and leaders can be found here.

The UK organisations announcing their divestment commitments are as follows:

  • Diocese of London
  • Diocese of Canterbury
  • Diocese of Ely
  • Diocese of Gloucester
  • Diocese of Lichfield
  • Diocese of St Albans
  • Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
  • Diocese of Northampton
  • Canterbury Cathedral
  • Coventry Cathedral
  • Lichfield Cathedral
  • Peterborough Cathedral
  • St Edmundsbury Cathedral
  • Worcester Cathedral
  • St John’s Waterloo
  • Woodlands Church Family

Statements from leaders:

Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Vicar, St John’s Church, Waterloo: ‘
The climate crisis needs urgent action. St John’s Waterloo has taken the decision to divest because we have little hope that the fossil fuel extraction industry is serious about change. Fossil fuel consumption is increasing year on year and temperatures are rising swiftly. The poorest and most vulnerable around the world are suffering most. We need a fundamental change in how the global carbon-reliant economy works, and divesting from fossil fuels is a vital first step.’ 

Charles Bakolo, Provincial Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa: ‘Churches from the global north should divest from fossil fuels because this will eventually lead to the sector’s demise and create a better environment for accelerating renewable energy.’ 

Roberta Vincini and Francesco Scoppola, Presidents, Catholic Scouting Movement in Italy (AGESCI): ‘Disinvestment from fossil fuels is, first of all, for us Guides and Scouts, an educational choice. 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.’ 

Holly-Anna Petersen, Co-Founder, Christian Climate Action: ‘Members of Christian Climate Action have long been urging the Church to take its investments out of fossil fuels. Divesting frees the Church to speak prophetically against the suffering that fossil fuel companies are causing. I celebrate all the UK dioceses that have recently divested from fossil fuels. This is an important step for the future of our young people. I now urge churches to call out the companies and governments that are locking us into fossil fuel expansion. This can’t be allowed to continue if we want a livable planet.’

Tonderai Muzhinji, President, Zimbabwe Environmental Care Network (ZECN): ‘It is important for churches in the global north to divest from fossil fuels because it will help amplify the voices from the deprived communities in the global south.’ 

Revd Dr Cate Williams, Environmental Engagement Officer for the Diocese of Gloucester: ‘We have done this because we recognise that taking responsibility in care for creation is critical if we are to live well as Christians against the background of the climate and nature crises.’

Revd Canon Dr David Primrose, Canon Treasurer, Lichfield Cathedral: ‘Our investments sustain our cathedral’s ministry for generations to come, whilst investing in fossil fuels destroys that very future.’

Archbishop Giovanni Ricchiuti, President, Pax Christi Italy: ‘The Pax Christi Movement joins the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign because it embraces the urgent message for social and environmental justice contained in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. Each of us must do our part…to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. But it is also necessary to urge…policymakers to quickly develop policies that will permanently replace energy production from extractive fossil [fuel] sources that, as we know, damage the climate of our planet and exploit entire populations.’ 

Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral: ‘An essential part of our Christian vocation is to be good stewards of creation. We have discerned that part of this is to reduce our reliance on petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels and to invest in greener technologies. We have disinvested as a…witness to our commitment to work towards becoming a carbon-zero community.’

Revd Canon Kathryn Fleming, Sub-Dean and Canon for Worship & Community, Coventry Cathedral: ‘Coventry Cathedral is known worldwide for its ministry of reconciliation: reconciling humanity to our fragile planet is a vital element of this ministry. Coventry Cathedral’s investments are held in a fund which does not invest in fossil fuel companies. This is part of the Cathedral’s wider commitment to participate in the urgent work of slowing the rate of climate change. Along with making ethical investments, the Cathedral is working towards becoming carbon neutral, and is also raising awareness through our Arts and Events programme.’

Alice Snijders, Laudato Si’ Movement Member and Divestment Campaigner, Netherlands: ‘I feel profoundly connected to every living being, especially to those who have no voice or other means to defend their existence. Christ calls me to speak up for them…as well as for future generations.’

Very Revd Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral: ‘As a modest but tangible sign of our journey towards Net Carbon Zero, the Chapter of St Edmundsbury Cathedral is happy to confirm that none of our investments, all of which are held in an ethical fund, are invested in fossil fuels.’

Christopher Adam, Executive Director of St Joseph’s Church in Ottawa: ‘The Finance Council of St Joe’s Parish decided to divest, after discovering that the small holdings of the parish only included one fossil fuel related asset: a pipeline company that operates in Canada and the USA. Our investment advisor was able to recommend this investment be directed to a renewable energy provider here in Canada…so the parish re-invested to be more in line with our values. This will be announced in the bulletin, and online on the parish website, before Earth Day!’

Sr. Barbara Lynn Schmitz, Treasurer, Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana: ‘We intentionally invest our funds in line with Laudato Si so that we might be good stewards. We believe our investments should reflect our values.’

Jean Quinn, Director, UNANIMA International: ‘UNANIMA International is a nongovernmental organisation advocating on behalf of women and children, migrants, and refugees, homeless and displaced, and the environment. Our work takes place primarily at the UN in New York, where we and other members of Civil Society aim to educate and influence policymakers at the global level. In solidarity, we work for systemic change to achieve a more just world. Given this mission, it would contradict our values to invest in fossil fuels which are harming our planet and people in numerous ways.’

Rev. General Fr. Micéal O’Neill, Brethren of Blessed Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel: ‘The Carmelite Order – “Brethren of Blessed Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel” –  is pleased to accompany this Fossil Fuel Divestment announcement in line with its Fossil Fuel Divestment commitment approved at the 2019 General Chapter. The Carmelite Order puts its spirituality and mysticism on Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation at the service of the Church and humankind through concrete actions in line with the proposals of the encyclical Laudato Si’ related to the search for an Integral Ecology.’

Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair, Operation Noah: ‘The success of the divestment movement in the UK is a movement of the Holy Spirit working through Christians who recognise the Church’s role in safeguarding creation by pointing the world to a clean energy future. That begins by ensuring that, as faith communities, we’re not “faithwashing” the fossil fuel industry by continuing to invest our money in companies that pollute and overheat our world – companies that are already displacing communities from Mozambique to Bangladesh…and are planning to expand production at the very time we need to rapidly cut emissions. Change is coming, and people of faith are leading the way’. 

Bookmark and Share