Religious orders urge Church to divest from fossil fuels

This is an article from The Tablet, the International Catholic Weekly by Bernadette Kehoe and Liz Dodd. Can anyone give us an update on the Eastern Orthodox position?

Members of religious congregations in the UK have called on the Church in England and Wales to divest from fossil fuels such as coal and oil, following the example of the Irish bishops’ conference and its dioceses.

The call came as representatives of religious orders met at Mount Street Jesuit Centre in central London last week for a conference on fossil fuels, clean energy and climate change, hosted by the Jesuits and co-sponsored by the Conference of Religious. The Irish bishops’ conference divested from fossil fuels last August, and all 26 dioceses in Ireland and 60 orders are on a path to complete divestment from fossil fuels.

Dr Lorna Gol, co-ordinator of the Laudato Si’ Project at the Irish aid agency Trocaire and the vice-chair of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, told the conference that “radical and urgent change” was needed to keep the rise of average global temperatures below the threshold of 1.5 degrees set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The key message of today is the urgency of the crisis and the important role the Church and orders can play through the use of their resources and deciding when to remove their investments from fossil fuels and divert to renewables,” she said. She called on the Church in the UK to follow Ireland’s example and divest in favour of clean energy.

Questioned over the lack of commitments by dioceses in England and Wales, Edward de Quay of the Bishops’ Conference Environmental Advisory Group said : “We are aware of the work going on in dioceses to encourage divestment from fossil fuels and we hope these conversations are constructive.”

“We are pleased that investment in renewable energy through the Church marketplace and Inter-diocesan Fuel Management groups has been so successful, with 20 dioceses now buying green energy together.”

Fr Martin Poulsom, a Salesian of Don Bosco, a trustee of Operation Noah and senior lecturer at Roehampton University, said religious congregations could be “signs of hope for the world””. “[They] can play an important prophetic role today, showing that they care for our common home, not just by the lives that their members lead, but also by where they invest their money,” he said.

Religious at the conference told The Tablet that they intended to lobby their own orders to divest from fossil fuels.

Fr Tom O’Brien of the Augustinians of the Assumption said: ”We’ve got an AGM shortly and I’m going to make sure we encourage our investment company not to invest in fossil fuels.” Sr Anne Hogan of the Sisters of St Gildas agreed:” Today was very inspiring. We need to take a serious look at our investments as a congregation.”