New Milestone in Divestment

September 9, 2019

A diverse group of faith institutions with $11 trillion in assets has committed to divestment from fossil fuels under an agreement announced today in Cape Town, South Africa. The signing marks a significant milestone in the burgeoning movement, which began five years ago with institutions that held $50 billion in assets.

Among the movement’s 1,100 faith institutions, the latest signers include 15 Catholic institutions, such as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Caritas agencies in Italy, Singapore, Australia, and Norway. The seven new Protestant signers include the United Reformed Church in the UK, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, and the United Reformed Church Synod of Wessex, UK.

Muslim authorities in the United States and Canada have issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, on fossil fuels. It calls on Islamic investment managers to develop fossil-free investment vehicles and on individual Muslims to invest in renewable energy.

Pope Francis, in a statement before the divestment announcement, said “Now is the time to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels, and move quickly and decisively towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy.”

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, has become the world’s first cathedral to divest from fossil fuels. Elsewhere, the need to divest is especially acute for institutions in the global south that will bear the brunt of climate change.

The UN estimates that Eastern Africa has already warmed by an average of 1.3 degrees Celsius in recent decades. The ensuing droughts and heavy rains could prove catastrophic for subsistence farmers. “We as the Church have to advocate for alternative sources of energy,” said Fr. Paul Igweta, with the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa. “It is our duty to take care of the future generations to come.”

The announcement comes as Financing the Future, a summit on accelerating the clean economy, gets underway in Cape Town. To oppose “greed-induced climate change,” Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, president of the Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, called attendees to “… Shift away from industries and models of destruction and into the opportunity to promote life.”

The full list of today’s 22 divesting institutions is available here.