[Press Release] Catholics Join Faith Leaders in Challenging Sovereign Wealth and Pension Funds: Sever Trillions in Fossil Fuel Investments

November 10, 2016

Catholics Join Faith Leaders in Challenging Sovereign Wealth and Pension Funds: Sever Trillions in Fossil Fuel Investments

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Christina Leano, Associate Director, GCCM
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Marrakech, November 10 —  Leaders from global faith groups, financial institutions and foundations called on sovereign wealth and pension funds to rapidly end trillions in investments related to fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy in line with the Paris Agreement.

The faith leaders met at Building the Divest Invest Movement with Faiths, Foundations and Finance, an official side event of the COP22 UN Convention on Climate Change, which began November 7 in Marrakech. Tomas Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement was there to represent Roman Catholics and Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) Members from all over the world.

At the event, the COP 22 Interfaith Climate Statement was released, with eminent leaders from across faith traditions joining together in a powerful call to action. Signatories include Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Rev Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and over 220 other faith leaders from around the globe. Other signatories include senior Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist, Indigenous and other spiritual leaders.

The Statement included a set of imperatives designed to speed a transition to a low carbon future in a timeframe consistent with the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The calls included shifting public finances away from fossil fuels, increasing financing to end energy poverty with renewable energy, and ensuring a just transition that protects human rights and vulnerable communities.

Tomas Insua said, “The entry into force of the Paris Agreement is a positive signal that the world has started an unstoppable transition away from fossil fuels. The question is if world leaders will have the moral courage to make this transition happen at lightning speed as requested by climate scientists, something that seems less likely after the U.S. elections. Catholics join Pope Francis in demanding that the Paris Agreement’s nice words be turned into courageous decisions to protect our common home, the Earth, and the poorest who are suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis.”

Insua was referring to the pontiff’s World Food Day Message last month where he expressed his “hope that the objectives outlined by the Paris Agreement do not remain simply as good words, but rather that they are transformed into courageous decisions able to make solidarity not only a virtue but also a working model in economics, and fraternity no longer an aspiration but a criterion for domestic and international governance.”

Other faith leaders urged their communities for more commitments to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy, with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) releasing a major announcement that it would commit to divest its investments from fossil fuels and encourage its two constituent organizations and five national affiliated institutions to do so as well.  This marked the world’s first divestment announcement from a Muslim institution.

“According to Islam’s most basic and fundamental teachings, human beings have been uniquely charged with the great responsibility of being Guardians of the Earth. It goes against the mission of the ISNA to invest in fossil fuel companies whose operations and products cause such grave harm to humanity and to Creation,” said Dr. Azhar Azeez, President of the Islamic Society of North America.

The event also included presentations by philanthropic foundation leaders. Mark Sainsbury, Chair of the Mark Leonard Trust, made the financial case for divest invest: “The Paris Agreement, new regulations and technological innovation will see fossil fuel companies lose value and market share to sustainable energy technologies. In fact, it’s happening already. We’re in a sustainable energy revolution and I believe it’s wiser to invest in the low carbon technology of today and tomorrow, not the high carbon technology of yesterday,” he said.

Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund, stated, “Governments have significant influence on global finance with their investment assets. Nations can play a critical and stabilising role in expediting the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to a net-zero carbon economy, mitigating the financial and humanitarian risks of dangerous climate change. Nations’ sovereign wealth funds must be invested consistent with the commitments made in Paris.”

Rev Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith said, “Religious and spiritual communities recognize that the earth is a gift, and that it is our responsibility to protect it.  In the face of the climate crisis, we are all required to act and to immediately shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Faith communities are also united in their concern to care for the most vulnerable and are committed to bring distributed, clean power to the 1.1 billion people globally who lack access to electricity by 2030.”

The Global Catholic Climate Movement recently held its own announcement of divestment on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology, October 4th. As a response to the Pope’s Laudato Si’ encyclical and the COP21 statement of Catholic Bishops from all continents,  Catholic institutions and communities from all over the world celebrated the culmination of the month-long Season of Creation with the largest joint announcement of their decision to divest from fossil fuels.

The side event was hosted by GreenFaith and DivestInvest. Greenfaith is an interfaith environmental organization that inspires, equips, and mobilizes diverse faith communities for environmental action. DivestInvest encourages individuals and philanthropic institutions to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.

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