The largest joint announcement of a move away from fossil fuels marked the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi as Catholic institutions and communities from all over the world celebrated the culmination of the month-long Season of Creation.
The Catholic communities committing to switch the management of their finances away from fossil fuel extraction include: The Jesuits in English Canada; the Federation of Christian Organisations for the International Voluntary Service (FOCSIV) in Italy; the Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea; SSM Health in the United States; the Diocese of the Holy Spirit of Umuarama in the Brazilian state of Paraná; the Missionary Society of St. Columban, based in Hong Kong and with a global presence in 14 countries; and the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco – Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Milan and Naples (Italy).
Commitments range from divesting from coal, as is the case of the US healthcare institution SSM, to redirecting the divested funds into clean, renewable energy investments, as FOCSIV has announced. As for the Brazilian Diocese of Umuarama, it is both the first diocese and the first Latin American institution to commit to divest from fossil fuels; the Diocese is taking steps to become low-carbon and is part of COESUS, a coalition fighting fracking in Latin America.
The fossil fuel divestment movement was acknowledged during the presentation of Pope Francis’s message on the World Day of Prayer for Creation by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, when he pointed out that Pope Francis suggests that “social pressure—including from boycotting certain products—can force businesses to consider their environmental footprint and patterns of production. The same logic animates the fossil fuel divestment movement.”
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Major Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican organisations came together between September 1st (World Day of Prayer for Creation) and October 4th to observe the Season of Creation, calling on the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide to pray and take action to care for the Earth.
The urgent need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure was highlighted by a recent report which found that the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would increase our planet’s temperature beyond 2°C by the end of this century, and even with no coal, the reserves in oil and gas fields alone would cause warming beyond 1.5ºC.
The campaign to divest from fossil fuels is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history, according to a report by the University of Oxford. Up to date, nearly 600 institutions worth over $3.4 trillion globally have announced divestment commitments.
This is the latest in a row of recent announcements involving faith communities and climate change. Earlier this month, it was announced that over 3,000 UK churches had switched or planned to move to green energy in 2016; Morocco, where COP22 will gather this December, will give 600 mosques a green makeover by March 2019: in September, the Indian government asked ashrams to invest in solar power; and just last week the Anglican Church of Southern Africa passed a motion during its provincial Synod to divest from fossil fuels.