As major challenges for the global economy are predicted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a diverse group of faith institutions is putting the call for a just economic recovery into practice.
Forty-two faith institutions from 14 countries recently announced their divestment from fossil fuels, the largest ever divestment of its kind. It comes from institutions in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Myanmar, Spain, the UK, and the United States.
As governments around the world make substantial investments in an economic recovery, faith communities urge them to think long term and focus on a recovery that is low-carbon and just.
Mark Campanale, founder and executive chair of Carbon Tracker, an independent think tank that analyzes the financial impact of an energy transition, said, “A comprehensive economic recovery means taking the long view, investing now in infrastructure that will serve communities for years to come. Fossil fuels do not have a place in the long-term health of humanity. Faith institutions’ commitment to create a better world is leadership that governments should follow.”
Applying lessons learned
Earlier this month, a from Operation Noah showed that none of the major oil companies are compliant with the Paris agreement targets. The former archbishop of Canterbury, Rev. Dr Rowan Williams, said in response to the report, “The current health crisis has highlighted as never before the need for coherent international action in the face of global threat. Can we learn the lesson and apply it to the global threat of climate change? To do so means taking practical and effective steps to reduce our lethal dependence on fossil fuels.”
The multi-faith announcement comes from Methodist, Anglican, Catholic and Buddhist institutions, among others. The group includes the Jesuits in Britain, which divested its £400 million ($517.5 million) equity portfolio from fossil fuels in .
Illustrating the need for a just recovery, the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Bangladesh is among those committing to divest from fossil fuels.
Bangladesh is home to the world's largest refugee camp, where more than half a million people live near the Bay of Bengal. The Bay of Bengal is extremely vulnerable to the greater risk of catastrophic storms that come with climate change. A viral pandemic and a catastrophic storm would bring one of the world’s most vulnerable communities to a halt, illustrating the need to repair the faults that have left economies near the breaking point.
Time to act
Father Endra Wijayanta, director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission for the Archdiocese of Semarang, in Indonesia, said, “In this COVID-19 pandemic, it is the exact time not only to reflect, but to act. We have to stop our ecological spiral of death. We have to revive our ecological hope, in massive repentance of humankind, by taking the pathway to more sustainable living.”
Faith communities have long taken the lead in the global divestment movement, and have contributed the single greatest number of commitments, with over 350 commitments in the global total of over 1,400. Today’s action by faith institutions puts pressure on governments around the world to enact policies that will lead to a comprehensive and resilient recovery.
Catholics’ participation is especially resonant as today marks the start of Laudato Si’ Week, a global commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and ecology. After being to participate in Laudato Si’ Week by Pope Francis, Catholics have taken up the project to build a more just and sustainable future together. In the last month, 21 Catholic organizations with $40 billion in assets under management committed to invest in companies that align with their values by signing the .
A full list of the 42 institutions divesting from fossil fuels and statements from leaders can be found