Austrian Bishops’ Conference divests from fossil fuels

March 21, 2019

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Chairperson of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, announces today that the Episcopal Conference of Austria will sign Global Catholic Climate Movement’s divestment commitment.

Cardinal Schönborn

The Austrian bishops’ conference will divest from all businesses that extract or produce fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). This decision includes all financial investments of the bishops’ conference, all Austrian dioceses, and all other institutions within their sphere.

Around the world, Catholic institutions have been leaders in taking concrete steps to address the climate crisis. Austria is the third bishops’ conference to announce its divestment from fossil fuels, following Belgium and Ireland.

These bishops’ conferences join nearly 120 other Catholic institutions that have divested, including large German Catholic banks. These 120+ Catholic institutions are the leaders in a global total of approximately 1,000 institutions valued at over $8.5 trillion that have divested.

The Austrian decision comes on the heels of a Vatican conference on the UN’s sustainable development goals, which include urgent action on climate change, and follows strong statements from Pope Francis about energy use, such as his statement to fossil fuel CEOs that “civilization requires energy use, but energy use must not destroy civilization!”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Chairperson of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference said that the “financial means of the Church must not exert a destructive influence on our planet’s climate.” The full statement from Cardinal Schönborn is here.

Tomás Insua, executive director of Global Catholic Climate Movement, said, “The Austrian Bishops’ Conference divestment from fossil fuels is a prophetic stand for climate justice. The global Catholic community is taking bold leadership to protect the vulnerable people who urgently cry out for change. We have only a few short years to turn the arc of greenhouse gas emissions downward, and this visionary leadership by the bishops of Austria is a huge step in the right direction.”

Anja Appel, director of the Coordination Office of the Austrian Bishops´ Conference (KOO), said “We Christians and our institutions have the responsibility to care for creation and work towards global justice. We are among this part of the world’s population which produces the biggest share of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore naturally we need to fight its main cause–the use of fossil fuels. This important step shows the Austrian bishops’ coherent effort to meet the demands of the Paris Climate Accord.” The full statements from Anja Appel and from Bishop Freistetter are here.