Scottish Churches’ divestment webinar sees launch of COP26 Pledge


On Wednesday 3 March 2021, Eco-congregation Scotland, Operation Noah and partner organisations hosted a webinar on divestment attended by almost 200 people to launch the Scottish Churches COP26 pledge

The webinar, entitled COP26, Divestment and Investment in a Just and Green Recovery, explored how Churches in Scotland – both locally and nationally – can support a just and green recovery by divesting from fossil fuels and re-orienting investments towards a clean energy future. It was organised by Eco-congregation Scotland, Operation Noah, Christian Aid, Justice & Peace Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland. 

Speakers included renowned climate activist Dr Lorna Gold, as well as Very Revd John Conway, Provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, Church of Scotland divestment campaigner Seonaid Knox, James Buchanan from Operation Noah, and Christian Aid partner Alejandro Alemán Treminio who joined from Nicaragua.

As Scotland prepares to host the UN climate talks (COP26) later this year, we have a unique opportunity to make an impact and increase the pressure on institutions and governments to respond with the urgency that the climate crisis demands.

Dr Lorna Gold, Director of Movement Building at FaithInvest and Chair of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, was the keynote speaker on the webinar. She shared how the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference divested from fossil fuels, as well as how the Republic of Ireland became the first country to commit to divest. She also encouraged faith groups to use their investments to generate positive environmental and social impacts.

The Provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, Very Revd John Conway, shared with participants how St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral divested from fossil fuels, as well as the steps that are now needed to complete divestment in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

In June 2019, the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod voted to change its ethical investment policy following a motion proposed by Revd Diana Hall, Rector of St Anne’s, Dunbar. The motion stated that ‘the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels’.

Seonaid Knox, former clerk to the Church of Scotland Youth Assembly, spoke about her involvement in the Church of Scotland divestment campaign and why the Church needs to listen to the voice of younger generations.

The Church of Scotland General Assembly voted narrowly against full divestment from fossil fuel companies in May 2019. At the most recent General Assembly in October 2020, Seonaid Knox proposed a motion on fossil fuel divestment, which called on the Church’s Faith Impact Forum to ‘report to the 2021 General Assembly on the ethical, scientific and theological arguments for and against urgent disinvestment from oil and gas companies’. The Church of Scotland also set a 2030 net zero target.

Alejandro Alemán Treminio, Climate Change Officer at the Nicaraguan organisation Centro Humboldt (a Christian Aid partner) and coordinator of Climate Action Network Latin America, spoke powerfully about the impacts of the climate crisis in the region. Alejandro shared how COP26 needs to address loss and damage as a result of the climate crisis. He also spoke about the imperative for faith organisations to respond to the urgent cry for climate justice, including by divesting from fossil fuels.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, presented the key findings of the report Church investments in major oil companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant? He reported that there is clear evidence that fossil fuel companies are not aligned with the Paris targets. He spoke about the impact that churches and faith institutions are having by making joint global divestment announcements.

Fiona Buchanan, Campaigns and Advocacy Coordinator at Christian Aid Scotland, chaired the webinar, and Chris Hegarty, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor at Christian Aid Scotland, joined the speaker panel for questions and answers with the audience.

The webinar saw the launch of the Scottish Churches COP26 Pledge on Divestment and the Just and Green Recovery, which can be signed by individuals, churches, regional Church bodies and national Churches. More than 50 church leaders have already signed the pledge, including the Bishops of Edinburgh and Brechin in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Leader of the Iona Community and the Head of Christian Aid Scotland. 

Participants were invited to join the next global divestment announcement for faith organisations on Monday 17 May. If you would be interested in getting your local church, Diocese, Presbytery, Circuit or District to make a divestment commitment as part of this joint announcement, 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.

Operation Noah would like to thank the 180 people who joined the webinar live, especially our guest speakers for their inspiring contributions. You can watch the webinar here. Please do share it with others!

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