March: The Sisters of St Joseph of Peace announced that they had completed the divestment from fossil fuels of their UK investment portfolio. The Sisters made the decision to divest in 2018 and were 100% fossil free by 2019. Read more.
April: We published four case studies showing how faith organisations are investing in the clean energy future. They demonstrate how two cathedrals and a number of churches are making using of renewables on their buildings and investing in local community energy. Read them here. Sir John Houghton, a Patron of Operation Noah, passed away, aged 88. Read our tribute.
May: 42 faith institutions from 14 countries, including 21 from the UK, announced their divestment from fossil fuels. We worked with the World Council of Churches, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith on this announcement. Read more.
August: More than 70 prominent civil society leaders – including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams – signed a letter countering the Pensions Minister Guy Opperman’s continued invested in fossil fuel companies. Read more.
September: Climate Sunday launched. Climate Sunday was originally proposed by Operation Noah and is now supported by 20 organisations and run by CTBI. It asks churches to hold a climate-themed service in the lead-up to COP26 next year, make a commitment to take action to reduce their own greenhouse gases, and ask politicians and world leaders to tackle the climate emergency. Get involved.
October: During September and October, Operation Noah was involved in organising two webinars designed to help Catholic institutions both divest from fossil fuels and make investments with positive environmental and social impacts. Speakers included Lord Deben and Fr Augusto Zampini. They were each attended by more than 250 people. Watch them again here and here. The Methodist Council voted for a resolution on fossil fuel divestment.
November: 47 faith institutions from 21 countries, including the UK, announced their divestment from fossil fuels. In the UK, Catholic religious orders, United Reformed Church Synods and local Anglican and Methodist Churches joined the announcement.
Christmas is almost upon us and this month we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on 2020. It may have been a strange year, but we’ve still been working to encourage the Church to take urgent action in response to the climate crisis.
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When world leaders decided to postpone UN climate talks for a year due to the pandemic, young people, recognising the urgency of the climate crisis, decided not only to hold their own, online conference but also to see if they could improve on the original plans. Josh Tregale reports.
Between the 19th November and 1st December over 330 youth delegates representing over 140 countries took part in Mock COP26. An online youth led event filling the void left by postponement of COP26. I have had the privilege of working as an Event Coordinator for Mock COP26 since September. We had speeches from high profile public figures including the COP26 President, UN Youth Envoy, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, the High-Level Climate Action Champion for UN climate talks, scientist, economists and youth activists. All of the content from Mock COP26 can be viewed online on our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/c/mockcop26.
The conference mirrored some of the processes of COP summits although some changes were made to increase inclusivity and accessibility. Mock COP26 had a particular focus on the Global South who are on the front line of the climate crisis yet contribute the least to cause the problem. 72% of our delegates were from these countries and their votes were weighted above those from the Global North. Like with COPs the event ended in a global statement, declaring what actions and policies the youth delegates would commit to if they were the political leaders. The statement can be read at www.mockcop.org/treaty and it includes 18 policies ranging from climate education to the protection of indigenous land rights, Nationally Determined Contributions and Physical and Mental health.
I am so pleased with how the conference went, we had an estimated media reach of 98 million people and 5.4 million impressions of the #MockCOP26 hashtag on Twitter alone. The next challenge of Mock COP26 is to campaign for world leaders to listen to our ambition and push for more action ahead of COP26. It is crucial that as Christians we engage in policy, we are called to be ‘wise stewards of the earth’ and it is the rules and commitments of countries that have the most impact on stewarding the earth.
Please pray that world leaders listen to what young activists are calling for and that they raise their ambition ahead of COP26. The recovery from the pandemic has the potential to leave a lasting legacy and signal a new phase in our commitment to the preservation of our God’s creation and those who live in it.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement. Shilpita Mathews and Josh Evans consider our progress, and lack of, in implementing the agreement.
‘Humanity is waging war on nature. This is
suicidal. Nature always strikes back and it is already doing so with growing
force and fury,’ were the remarks of UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in
a speech entitled State of the
Planet, last week. This is a sombre tone as
the world marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement on the 12th
of December. As we look forward to the UK hosting the COP26 conference in
Glasgow in November 2021, there is a need for urgent climate action.
We are not on track to meet the global 1.5°C
Despite the progress made, there is an ambition-implementation
gap when it comes to emission reductions. Global
commitments, fall short of meeting 1.5°C, with Climate
Action Tracker (CAT) calculating that in a best-case
scenario, net zero pledges could lead to warming of 2.1°C by 2100. However,
they also show that this estimate has dropped from 3.5 degrees in 2009 with 0.5
degrees of this in the last year alone as a direct result of climate emergency
and net-zero declarations.
Further commitments are required by governments
While the UK
has committed to reducing emissions by 68%
by 2030, this remains below the 70% reduction
required to meet Paris targets projected by Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of the landmark Stern Review
on the economics of climate change. Moreover, the UK’s current Covid
recovery stimulus spending is behind
other European countries when it comes to a just and green recovery.
Concerningly, there remains a stark contrast between government spending
on programmes like ‘Gear Change’, promoting
cycling and walking ( £2 billion), and continued spending on road building (£27 billion)
as well as £12.8 billion on fossil
fuels annually. This indicates ambitious 2030 targets are
needed to prevent catastrophic consequences, as the UK announces its Nationally
Determined Contributions (NDCs) this
Delaying action will impact the poorest countries the
Meeting Paris commitments in a cost-optimal way will require a global reduction in emissions by 40%–50%
by 2030.Research show that
delayed action will lead to additional costs and may lead to the failure of the
Paris Agreement as a whole. These costs will be borne disproportionately by developing
countries. For instance, South-East Asia will face
more extreme impacts than other regions, with 600 million to one billion people in
Asia living in areas with a nonzero annual probability of lethal heat waves by
Rich countries have an obligation under the Paris agreement to provide $100
billion a year to help developing
countries limit pollution and adapt to climate change. However, recent UK aid budget cuts, from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income, jeopardise this.
Divestment makes economic sense
Net zero targets outline a hopeful trajectory
for planet earth and a worrying message for anyone deeply invested in fossil
fuels. Stranded assets could become a
reality faster than anyone has previously predicted. There are economic gains
to be made as entire economies orient themselves to net-zero pathways. Yet, the
Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), a project launched by the Church of
England and supported by several Churches, found in its 2020 State of
Transition Report that none of the major
oil companies are aligned with the Paris Agreement targets.
The climate crisis demands urgent
We are at the crossroads of climate action. In the
lead up to COP26, there are many ways citizens and churches can hold the
Support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill, which Operation Noah has recently endorsed. The CEE Bill’s aim, according to Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International, is to demonstrate ‘the path needed to avoid the catastrophe outlined by the United Nations… it is farsighted, aiming to protect those at risk now and in the future.’ Young people are leading the call to action. For instance, ‘climate education at every level of formal education, tougher ecocide laws, stronger regulation on air quality and banning the offshoring of emissions’ were some of the many demands made of the UK government by young activists at a global Mock COP26 event recently.
Divest! Our calls for government to do more carry more weight when we have our own house in order. The church has a unique moral voice that still carries weight in 2021. Its potential can be realised if it can call on the UK government with integrity to make ambitious agreements at COP26 a national priority. For this reason, churches must divest from fossil fuels now before this golden opportunity to use a platform to bring God’s kingdom passes us by. The reasons for doing this are outlined in Operation Noah’s Bright Now report Church investments in major oil companies – Paris compliant or Paris defiant?
Go Net Zero. Many churches are increasing their climate ambitions, as seen in the recent Scottish Episcopal Church vote to go net zero by 2030, which was welcomed by Operation Noah. Their announcement follows on from the Church of England’s announcement in February of this year.
From plans outlined
in the USA
by the incoming Biden-Harris administration, to China’s recent climate
targets, there is much to be hopeful for. Yet,
reiterated, ‘the targets set at Paris were
always meant to be increased over time.’ The world needs urgent action if we
are to address the climate emergency. As
we look ahead from Paris, the UK needs to make the most of its impressive
diplomatic networks to orchestrate a similar united approach in 2021.
Shilpita Mathews is currently Strategy Lead at YCCNand serves in the student ministry of her home church, All Souls Langham Place in London.
Josh Evans was part of the Pilgrimage2Paris in
2015 and is currently Campaigns Lead at YCCN.
Operation Noah board member, Nicky Bull, writes a short review of every book she reads. Here she shares her reviews of a number of books she has read in the last two years which we think will be of interest to Operation Noah supporters.
This is a fairly terrifying book as it tells it like it is
with regard to the effect that we are having on the climate of our planet. What
I wasn’t expecting was the inclusion of a section detailing what McKibben sees
as the other major threat to the ‘human game’: the further development and
implementation of artificial intelligence (AI). None of this makes for
comfortable reading and yet there is an underlying hope that seeps through – a
belief in the ability of humanity to make sufficient changes and turn things
around if only we can keep alive a vision of what it really means to be human.
The rapid growth in the use of sustainable and renewable energy, and the
rousing of public opinion displayed in non-violent direct action are the two
threads that give the author some optimism in what would otherwise be a bleak
This slim volume, an easy read in a single sitting, contains the texts of Greta’s addresses given in the course of less than a year to some of the most powerful people in the world, as well as to mass gatherings of concerned citizens. This diminutive Swedish schoolgirl goes straight to the heart of the climate crisis and to the flawed economic systems that are reacting too little and too slowly in addressing the damage that we in the privileged and wealthy countries of the global north are inflicting on the planet that supports all life. She is saying what we should have been saying for decades.
I have no reason to doubt the details in this book, charting
the progress or otherwise of climate change awareness and action between 1979
and 1989 in the USA – and I suspect that there were similar scenarios being
played out to at least some extent in other countries across the developed
world, where we are all so dependent upon energy from fossil fuels. It is a
salutary tale, and in many ways a deeply depressing read, but a really
important one. However, the Afterword is crucial and does contain some tiny
germs of hope, with its recognition that despite all the corporate lobbying,
the activities of environmentalists, and the politics, this global existential
problem is actually an issue of morality and of recognising our responsibility
to our fellow human beings – and to those yet to be born. That the younger
generation are doing much better at this is at least some cause for hope.
A really handy little guide that would be especially useful for anyone just beginning to look at how to reduce their use of plastic in response to concerns about the chemicals and particles it produces when degrading. It is now well known that these contaminate our oceans and that there is a huge volume of waste plastic being shipped across the globe where it potentially has even more damaging effects than it would in our own landfill sites. Only a small proportion is effectively recycled and we urgently need to reduce our use by finding, or reverting to, good sustainable alternatives. There are a few rather outlandish ideas – to make up the count? – but on the whole this little book contains sensible and practical advice.
In her most recent book Klein uses lectures and addresses
that she has given since 2010 to chart the climate crisis and to reinforce her
case that what is needed is a Green New Deal. Her arguments are very persuasive
and I only briefly lost sympathy when she criticised Nathaniel Rich’s Losing
Earth for its analysis that a major problem in tackling climate change is
‘human nature’. Klein prefers to see big corporations and governments as the
problem – and she is not wrong to do so – but they are run by people and while
their greed, power-hunger and desire to dominate are hugely problematical they
are surely aspects of human nature, and perhaps an exaggeration of traits that
many of us possess? However, both authors agree that part of what is needed is
to recognise the ‘villains’ and to take action if climate catastrophe is to be
This is a really good little book and would be a particularly good read for anyone who is unsure about exactly what Extinction Rebellion and their faith-based members stand for, and why they do what they do. But for someone who has followed XR’s story, both in the media and talking to friends who are involved, there was nevertheless a lot here that was new and interesting. The book is a compilation of contributions from a range of different people – some are sympathetic onlookers, some seasoned activists and a few are among the ‘arrestables’; these are testimonies of concern, compassion and hope and I highly recommend their stories.
I confess that much of the detail of this book went over my head –
I can scarcely begin to understand the intricacies of high-level economics or
global finance. However, the central message – which I heard direct from
Pettifor at a talk last year – is that system change is possible and is
absolutely necessary if the world is going to succeed in tackling climate
change. As the book’s title suggests, Pettifor makes the case for the Green New
Deal as being proposed in both the UK and the USA and there are a number of
places in the text – written, of course, before this year’s pandemic began –
where what she says comes across as prophetic.
I think this is a really important book.
Co-authored by the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change, who was the driving force behind the Paris Agreement, it is in almost
equal measure terrifying and hopeful. With a clear description of the probable
consequences if we fail to reach net zero global carbon emissions by 2050,
balanced by the possible scenario if we can succeed in reaching that goal, this
book should surely be read by everyone in positions of influence and power in
the world. The prospects are not great at present but the authors nevertheless
champion optimism and action as the way forward – and they reiterate the
message of Greta Thunberg and others, that everyone can make a difference.
I have read a number of things about
proposed ‘green deals’ but this book was the first to make it absolutely clear
how vital it is that plans to tackle the climate crisis are global in scope and
not restricted to the current major emitting nations. It is a relatively short
book, and presented in a question-and-answer, conversational format that is
accessible and not at all heavy going, despite the complicated issues
discussed. The two extremely distinguished authors bring differing perspectives
and are talking out of the US context but the overall conclusion is very plain,
and urgent. While the prospects for global cooperation on anything might not
have looked great a year ago, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided some degree of
optimism: it is all too easy to see how a failure to act, on the part of any
nation, leaves the whole world vulnerable.
Christian environmental and development charities Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah today joyfully welcome the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church, at their General Synod, to set a 2030 net zero carbon emissions target.
The motion was proposed by Revd Elaine Garman, Acting Convenerof the Church in Society Committee for the Scottish Episcopal Church. Speaking ahead of the motion being carried, she said, ‘We are in a climate emergency… We all must act and act now. As a Church we must lead… Our motion today is designed to enable the Scottish Episcopal Church…in reducing our negative impact on our climate… We can be part of Scotland’s preparations for the COP26 climate summit next year.’
The motion, passed by General Synod, reads: ‘That this Synod, expressing the need for urgent action in relation to the global climate emergency, call on the Church in Society Committee, working in conjunction with other appropriate bodies, to bring forward a programme of actions to General Synod 2021 to resource the Scottish Episcopal Church in working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.’
The decision to set a 2030 net zero target is especially significant as Glasgow prepares to host the UN climate talks, COP26, in November 2021.
The Provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral Edinburgh, The Very Revd John Conway, welcomed the motion: ‘This is an important first step for the Scottish Episcopal Church, showing our commitment to action in the face of the depth of the climate crisis. Responding to the climate emergency is the most urgent task facing us all, requiring all the spiritual and intellectual resources available. To speak with any authority about that spiritual task of living more simply, however, requires us to put our own house in order, and this motion sets us on that road. I look forward to the resources offered to help us all move to being carbon neutral in 10 years time.’
In June 2019, the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod voted to change its ethical investment policy following a motion proposed by the Revd Diana Hall, Rector of St Anne’s, Dunbar. The motion stated that ‘the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels’.
Since then, an Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has been established. which gave its first report to General Synod today. The report stated that the Church has sold its direct investments in fossil fuel companies, but continues to invest in fossil fuels indirectly through its pooled funds.
At General Synod, there were calls for the Scottish Episcopal Church to publicly announce its commitment to divest from fossil fuels and to complete the divestment process as soon as possible. In his speech to the General Synod, The Very Revd John Conway welcomed the work done to date by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) and asked the Church’s College of Bishops to sign the Scottish Churches COP26 Pledge: Divestment and the Just and Green Recovery, which was recently launched by Eco-congregation Scotland and other partners.
The decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to reach net zero emissions in the next decade follows the Church of England decision to set a 2030 net zero target earlier this year.
At the Church of Scotland 2020 General Assembly in October, the Church’s Faith Impact Forum brought a proposal to the General Assembly ‘for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030’. Many local authorities have also made this pledge, including the City Councils of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: ‘Only this week the Secretary General of the United Nations told the world we have a climate emergency which is impacting most heavily on the world’s most vulnerable people. We know all too well here at Christian Aid that those who have done the least to cause the problem suffer the most. And so it’s really encouraging that today the Scottish Episcopal Church has decided to commit to net zero emissions by 2030. As 2020 draws to a close, we can look ahead to COP26 in Glasgow alongside our Church partners in Scotland, as they continue to pursue decisions that will lead to climate justice for those living on the sharp end of the climate emergency.’
Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-congregation Scotland, said: ‘We are really pleased to see that our supporting Churches are backing the priority to aim for net zero by 2030, which will bring changes to local congregations and their members.’
James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘It is wonderful news that the Scottish Episcopal Church has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. In order to demonstrate leadership on the climate crisis ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow next year, it is vital that the Scottish Episcopal Church supports a just and green recovery from Covid-19 by completing divestment from fossil fuel companies and investing in the clean technologies of the future.’
1. Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on climate change. It works with all Christian denominations. operationnoah.org
2. Christian Aid holds a vision of a better world, free from poverty and climate change. For over ten years, Christian Aid Scotland has been campaigning for the UK and Scottish Governments to take climate change seriously for the benefit of those who are impacted first and worst by its effects. christianaid.org.uk
3. Eco-Congregation Scotland is a movement of Scottish church congregations, of all denominations and none, committed to addressing environmental issues through their life and mission. ecocongregationscotland.org
4. The motion passed by the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod reads as follows: ‘That this Synod, expressing the need for urgent action in relation to the global climate emergency, call on the Church in Society Committee, working in conjunction with other appropriate bodies, to bring forward a programme of actions to General Synod 2021 to resource the Scottish Episcopal Church in working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.’