In May, the Justice and Peace group at St Mary of the Angels parish in Worthing, West Sussex, sent a letter to the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton Diocese outlining the case for the diocese to disinvest from fossil fuel extraction companies. The letter included information about climate change impacts on the poor, the effect of fossil fuels on the Global Temp limit agreed at COP 21, plus quotes from Laudato Si’, and generally made the moral, ethical and financial case for disinvesting. Bishop Richard Moth of Arundel and Brighton was urged to review the Diocese Ethical Investment policy. In response, he has agreed to discuss the issue with the Diocesan Financial Secretary.
Earlier this month the parish group also handed out ‘Laudato Si – How you can play your part’ leaflets in their parish and spoke to parishioners. Worthing parish is already a Live Simply Parish and after a recent Parish Energy Audit has been looking into changing lights, and all switches will have ‘Turn it Off’ signs on them. Work has begun on replacing an old, inefficient boiler with a new one. The commitment to diocesan disinvestment is a progression from the grassroots work to lower the community’s carbon footprint.
The Worthing Justice and Peace Group is not alone. Catholic institutions globally are divesting from fossil fuel companies and reinvesting in renewable energy as a response to the Pope’s Laudato Si’ encyclical and the COP21 statement of Catholic Bishops from all continents. Pope Francis said in Laudato Si’: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels needs to be progressively replaced without delay”. The bishops said in a statement to the Paris Climate talks (COP 21) last December: “Put an end to the fossil fuel era… and provide affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy access for all”.
Divestment is the opposite of investment – it is the removal of investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds. The global Divest-Reinvest movement is asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons, asking instead to reinvest those resources in clean energy companies that will help solve the climate crisis while tackling energy poverty.
Catholic institutions, globally, who are committed to divest fully or partially include Georgetown University and the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in the USA, the Presentation and Marist Sisters in Australia, and CCFD-Terre Solidaire (Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development) in France. Others include the World Council of Churches, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and a number of universities – including Stanford and Oxford.
In Britain, the campaign ‘Bright Now’ supports churches interested in divesting from fossil fuels, and has recently worked closely with Church of England Dioceses and Methodist districts. It is run by Operation Noah, an ecumenical Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. It is part of a growing global movement calling for disinvestment from fossil fuels, but has chosen to focus specifically on churches in the UK. To keep below a 1.5°C rise, Operation Noah says about 85 per cent of all fossil-fuel reserves must remain in the ground.
CAFOD is urging the Catholic constituency to move away from fossil fuels, the biggest cause of climate change, and towards renewable energy. More and more energy companies are starting to offer renewable energy and thousands of people have already switched. CAFOD has partnered with 100% renewable energy company Ecotricity, to offer green electricity and green gas to CAFOD supporters. In addition, between April and October 2016, for each electricity switch, Ecotricity gives £50 towards CAFOD’s work. If you switch electricity and gas, it’s £75.