Thirty five faith institutions from seven countries have today announced their divestment from fossil fuel companies, including the Archdiocese of Armagh, the Methodist Church in Ireland and several Irish Catholic religious orders, including the Southern Province of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and the Congregation of Christian Brothers in Northern Ireland. 

Organised by the World Council of Churches, Operation Noah, Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith, this latest divestment announcement comes from faith institutions in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the UK and the US. Seven Irish institutions have joined the announcement. 

Participating institutions include two Catholic dioceses (the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Leeds); five Church of England dioceses; the Methodist Church in Ireland; 11 Catholic religious orders, including the Jesuits in the United States East Province, the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph in Canada and the Religious Institute of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Brazil; two United Reformed Church Synods; the Catholic Theological Society of America; two Jesuit universities in the US (Marquette University and Loyola University, Chicago); and several local churches.

Faith leaders are calling for ongoing action: last year, more than 20 Anglican bishops in Southern Africa, including the Archbishop of Cape Town, the three bishops of Mozambique and the Bishop of Namibia called for an immediate halt to oil and gas exploration in Africa, while earlier this year, over 500 UK Church leaders, including 68 Anglican and Catholic bishops and some of the UK’s largest Christian NGOs, called on the UK Government to stop all new fossil fuel developments. In 2020, the Vatican recommended that Catholic institutions divest from fossil fuel companies. 

Last year’s Invest/Divest report found that faith institutions represented more than 35% of all divestment commitments globally – more than any other single sector. More than 1,500 institutions from all sectors, with combined assets of over $40 trillion, have now made some form of divestment commitment worldwide, up from a starting point of $50 billion in 2014. 

Commenting on today’s announcement, Jane Mellett, Laudato Si’ Officer for Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said, “Fossil fuel companies are driving the climate crisis, which is having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable people in our world and endangering all life on this planet. By divesting from the fossil fuel industry, Church institutions are taking a practical step to ensure a more sustainable future for all. It is the right thing to do and it answers Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si’ for “Fossil fuels…to be progressively replaced without delay”.’ 

In joining this divestment announcement, the Methodist Church in Ireland joins the three largest Churches in Ireland – the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland – in divesting from fossil fuels. 

Commenting on the further divestment, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said, “It is clear that many members of our congregations, especially our young people, feel we have a responsibility to take action with regard to the challenges of climate change and climate justice. We all share responsibility for the problems facing our world, but equally, we share responsibility for finding the solutions. Each one of us must accept our personal and collective need to change and make sacrifices, recognising the inherent issues of justice and fairness that are involved, and realising, as Pope Francis says, that “the cry of the earth” is especially “the cry of the poor”. Climate change is already having a disproportionate impact on those who are on the margins, those most dependent on fragile ecosystems and most vulnerable to famine, to drought, to food and water insecurity and conflict, to exploitative and “predatory economic interests”, to the destruction of their homes and displacement of their families.

“From a faith point of view, God is calling us to be caring stewards of creation, to protect and nourish our planet and its resources, and not to selfishly waste them or ruthlessly and excessively exploit and destroy them. I support fully the decision of the Directors of the St Patrick’s Archdiocesan Trust to continue its commitment to a policy of divestment from fossil fuels, and I encourage others to consider similar action.”

The Congregational Leadership of the Sisters of Mercy (Ireland) said the climate emergency that has brought us to the “tipping point” in our Common Home, and threatens life on earth, is a decision-time for the human conscience. The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy accept the urgency of the call to cease investing in fossil-fuel related operations. Our commitment to such divestment is immediate and without reservation.

Fr Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Ecology Sector in the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, which assists Pope Francis’ work on the environment, said, “In 2020, the Vatican called on Catholic institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies given their harm to the environment. I applaud these prophetic institutions divesting today and encourage every institution in the world to reduce our dependence on such harmful energy sources by divesting from fossil fuels. This is how prophetic institutions can live out our values and help the most vulnerable among us. If we want to achieve peace, and ensure a liveable planet for all, including the future generations, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels that fuel the current climate crisis.”

ENDS