Church investment for a just and green recovery
Bokani Tshidzu is Bright Now Campaign Officer at Operation Noah.
‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew 6:21)
The urgency of the climate crisis has escalated and it demands a proportionate response. One of the most effective ways in which we can make the necessary and just transition is to divest (disinvest) from fossil fuel companies. Given that oil and gas companies are continuing to fuel the climate emergency, it is unethical to continue to profit from their harmful business practices.
Divestment from fossil fuels is a moral imperative. The impacts of the climate crisis are disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable. Are we hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor? Church investments must be aligned with our values; our faith must lead us to act.
Last year the Vatican recommended divestment for the first time. Many Churches have fully divested from fossil fuels, including Quakers in Britain, the Church of Ireland and the United Reformed Church. In 2020, 50 UK faith institutions made commitments to divest from fossil fuels.These are prophetic actions which shine a light for others to follow.
All major oil companies are Paris defiant, not Paris compliant. While claiming to support the Paris Agreement, oil and gas companies continue to lobby against climate action and plan increases in exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. This is despite the fact that if we are to prevent further catastrophic climate impacts, the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. Churches also need to support a just and green recovery from the impacts of the pandemic by investing in the clean technologies of the future.
Sometimes it might seem as if the actions we take on an individual level are a drop in the ocean. Divestment is a strategic and practical step that makes an impact at the structural level. As major oil companies themselves have acknowledged, divestment makes it more expensive to raise funds to continue the exploration and extraction of new fossil fuel reserves. By removing the social licence from fossil fuel companies, divestment increases the pressure on governments to introduce legislation that further cuts demand for fossil fuels.
Divestment is also the financially prudent choice to protect investments given the risk of stranded assets, as well as the cuts to dividends seen last year for the first time in three decades. The falling costs of renewable energy, together with the development of other clean technologies, threaten the demand for fossil fuels and provide opportunities for Churches to invest in a zero carbon future and put their money where their heart is.
Useful resources and webinars:
Divest your church step-by-step guide for local churches
Watch the Methodist webinar: The Climate Emergency, COP26 and Fossil Fuel Divestment with Bill McKibben (Founder of 350.org)
Watch the Scottish Churches’ webinar: COP26, Divestment and Investment in the Just and Green Recovery with Lorna Gold (Chair of the Global Catholic Climate Movement)
Join the Anglican Communion webinar: COP26, Divestment and Investment in Climate Justice: Thursday 25 March, 7.00-8.30pm
Vatican: Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Si’: Read more here
Guardian: ‘Top oil firms spending millions lobbying to block climate change policies, says report’ (March 2019):
Financial Times: ‘Big Oil’s $5tn investment is incompatible with Paris deal’ (April 2019): https://www.ft.com/content/08453afc-61e8-11e9-b285-3acd5d43599e
BBC: ‘Bank of England chief Mark Carney issues climate change warning’ (December 2019): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50868717
Church Times: ‘Church fossil-fuel holdings are sold to the sound of no trumpets’ (July 2020): https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/17-july/news/uk/church-fossil-fuel-holdings-are-sold-to-the-sound-of-no-trumpets
UN Environment Programme Production Gap Report 2020:
Carbon Brief: ‘Wind and solar are 30-50% cheaper than thought, admits UK government’ (August 2020): https://www.carbonbrief.org/wind-and-solar-are-30-50-cheaper-than-thought-admits-uk-government