Our religious traditions share values regarding the ethical use of financial resources.
In the past, our communities have decided that profiting from certain economic activities is incompatible with our faiths. When an industry continually, over years, causes massive harm while intractably resisting calls for change, faith communities have moved beyond education, engagement and advocacy to divestment.
In recent decades, faith groups have taken this approach in response to the tobacco industry and to apartheid South Africa. These efforts made a meaningful difference. They helped, rightly, to delegitimize corporate and governmental regimes whose actions were profoundly destructive.
Today, the fossil fuel industry represents such a destructive threat. Climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels, will create devastation. Rising temperatures and sea levels, punishing storms, droughts and floods will displace and endanger billions of people. Many will lose their lives. Many others, particularly the poorest, will lose their livelihoods and homes. Human society and the Earth’s ecosystems will be left to future generations in tragically diminished condition, with only costly prospects for partial repair.
The fossil fuel industry has used its financial power to prevent legislation and binding agreements to reduce carbon emissions, spending over $400,000 per day to lobby the US government alone. It secures unthinkably large government subsidies - $1.5 billion globally per day, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2013, the industry spent over $600 billion exploring for new fossil fuel reserves, far beyond the $244 billion invested globally in renewable energy. This level of spending does not reflect an image of an industry planning to change its ways.
Because of the grave threat of climate change and the fossil fuel sector’s unyielding refusal to change, it is no longer right for religious groups to profit from companies that, with certainty, are creating ecological destruction and human suffering on such a titanic scale.
Energy represents a foundation for civilization; there is no arguing this. But fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry’s obstruction of a response to the climate crisis represent a grave danger to life.
What must faith communities do?
They must divest - now.