Archive: December 2021 - Operation Noah

Operation Noah’s Top 10 Moments of 2021

Posted in: Blog, Featured

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and welcome in the New Year, we’ve selected some of our top moments of 2021 – change that you made possible by supporting Operation Noah! 

This year, our Bright Now campaign has gone from strength to strength. Nearly every major Church in the UK has now divested from fossil fuels, and even the ones that haven’t, such as the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England – both of which still have fossil fuel investments at a national level – are seeing increasing numbers of dioceses divest.

This year, we also saw the Climate Sunday movement – which we initiated and supported – enable over 2,200 UK churches to hold a climate-themed service, with many of those churches taking action by lobbying their MP or signing up to a church greening scheme.

All of this activity is only possible with your support. If you feel able to give to Operation Noah this Christmas, either through a one-off donation or by giving regularly, we would be incredibly grateful. Your prayers and financial support, quite literally, change the world! 

The Operation Noah Team 

Our top moment of 2021 is the series of Global Divestment Announcements that we organised with our friends at Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans, World Council of Churches and GreenFaith. This year saw two announcements: one on 17 May, when 36 faith institutions from 11 countries announced their divestment from fossil fuels, and one on 26 October, when 72 faith institutions participated in the largest-ever joint divestment announcement by faith institutions.

The 26 October announcement, which was made just five days before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), included 72 faith institutions from six continents with more than £3.1 billion ($4.2 billion) of combined assets under management in Australia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Ukraine, the UK, the United States and Zambia.

Of the institutions that joined the announcement, 37 were from the UK; participating institutions included the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, 15 Catholic dioceses in the UK and Ireland, and two Church of England dioceses, among others.

Started by Operation Noah, Climate Sunday – an initiative to invite churches to hold a climate-themed service before November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow – grew to include almost every major Church in the UK and most of the largest Christian environmental and international development charities. More than 2,200 UK churches held a climate-themed service, and many of those churches also lobbied their MP, signed the Climate Coalition’s letter calling for more ambitious climate action or joined a church greening scheme. Read more about what’s next for Climate Sunday.

Some of the largest UK Churches divested from all fossil fuels in 2021, including the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union and the Church of Scotland. David Palmer, Chief Executive of the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, which oversees £1.3 billion of investments, said: ‘The patience of the Church has run out’, adding, ‘The pace of change across the oil and gas sector has been inadequate and we welcome the recommendation…to disinvest.’

Operation Noah made its presence felt at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. One of our trustees, Shilpita Mathews, an environmental economist, was an official observer at the conference, and our Bright Now Campaign Manager, James Buchanan, spoke at several events and helped organise a powerful in-person discussion on divestment and climate justice, which we also live-streamed to an international audience. Read more about Operation Noah’s presence at COP26 here.

In December, Shell announced that it would no longer fund the Cambo oil field, west of Shetland. While majority stakeholder Siccar Point Energy still hopes to take the project forward with new backers, it is now pausing the project as Shell’s withdrawal means it is unable to keep to the ‘originally planned timescale’. Cambo would produce annual emissions equivalent to 18 coal-fired power stations and is the first of more than a dozen proposed North Sea oil projects. Operation Noah is proud to be an official partner of the Stop Cambo campaign. Read our reaction to Shell’s withdrawal.

In 2021, we saw a rapid acceleration in the number of Church of England dioceses deciding to divest. Since March, six Church of England dioceses have announced their divestment from fossil fuels, with many others actively considering such a move. This year, the Dioceses of Bristol, Oxford, Sodor & Man, Truro, Norwich and Durham made divestment commitments. Currently, 18 Church of England dioceses have fossil fuel investments, and 18 dioceses have no fossil fuel investments but have yet to make a public commitment not to invest in fossil fuels in the future. At a national level, the Church of England still has £55 million invested in fossil fuels.

We saw real movement from the Catholic Church this year on divestment, a step recommended by the Vatican. In the Catholic Church of England and Wales, the Archdiocese of Birmingham divested, becoming the first Archdiocese in England and Wales to do so. In September, 176 Catholic young adults from every diocese of England and Wales wrote to bishops calling for divestment from fossil fuels. The week before COP26, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland announced its divestment along with more than a dozen Catholic dioceses in the UK and Ireland.

In June, we held a brilliant online Supporters’ Event chaired by one of our trustees, Hannah Malcolm. Over 80 people registered to hear from our speakers, Chine McDonald of Christian Aid, Dave Gregory of the Baptist Union Environmental Network and Josh Tregale of Mock COP26. We also had breakout sessions, providing opportunities for supporters to discuss specific environmental and theological topics.

Operation Noah held a series of divestment webinars in 2021, including a Methodist Webinar in February which featured the founder of the global divestment movement, Bill McKibben. That webinar was watched live by nearly 400 people. In March, we held an Anglican Communion Divestment Webinar with speakers from South Africa, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with over 200 people watching live.

In late 2021, Operation Noah secured funding to expand our successful Bright Now campaign. This new funding will allow us to hire two new staff members and to scale up our work with UK Churches and faith institutions on investment in climate solutions, such as renewable energy. We will also work with partners on a campaign to encourage the Church of England to increase tree coverage on its land and improve its land management practices, given the urgent climate and biodiversity crises.

Critical Optimism and COP26

Posted in: Blog

Martin Poulsom is a Senior Lecturer in Theology at the University of Roehampton. He is also a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, the second largest religious order of men in the Roman Catholic Church. He is a specialist in theology of creation, and in the work of the Dominican theologian Edward Schillebeeckx. He is also a Trustee and Board member of Operation Noah. Martin’s article, which we’ve been given permission to share below, was first published on 29 November 2021 on the LSE Religion and Global Society blog.

Was COP26 a success or a failure? To some extent at least, our answer will be connected to our general tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic about the state of things, our gut reaction to the world around us. It is important to pay attention to our gut, because otherwise our thinking and action can become rarefied, or can turn with the wind, becoming inconsistent over time. As a Christian with an optimistic disposition, my gut churned when I read the analysis of BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath to the release of a report mid-COP by Climate Action Tracker. This said that, in spite of the pledges being made during the first week of the Conference, the actual policies of governments (their practice) was likely to lead to 2.7 degrees Centigrade of warming by 2100. McGrath said that with “one sharp jab, this Climate Action Tracker report has punctured the balloon of optimism that’s been swelling since the start of this conference.”

This makes optimism seem very vulnerable, which is why we need something deeper, more critical, more sustainable, for people with a disposition like mine. Since the Paris COP in 2015, Christiana Figueres has been proposing a kind of optimism that is relentless and stubborn, refusing to give up in the face of setbacks and disappointments. Picking up on this idea, I would like to suggest a threefold interaction, drawing on the Christian tradition, that weaves a critical optimism that can sustain hope in the struggles and joys to come.

The first strand of this interaction is critical affirmation. As a Christian, this affirmation is based on my belief that God is the Creator of everything that exists. The world is not a neutral backdrop for human activity and we do not have carte blanche from God to treat the planet however we choose. God is not absent from the created world, leaving us to our own devices to succeed or fail on our own. As Pope Francis put it in paragraph 80 of Laudato Si’, written in the run-up to the Paris COP, “God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs. His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, ‘continues the work of creation’.”

In this affirmation of faith, autonomy is not independence, but is understood in a context of presence and relationship. Our dependence on God as creatures goes hand in hand with the responsibilities that are entrusted to us by God. Francis says, in paragraph 67 of Laudato Si’, that the task to “‘till and keep’ the garden of the world” that is entrusted to humanity “implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”

This mention of what we need leads me to the second strand of the threefold interaction, critical negativity. Given the climate emergency, we must clearly distinguish between what we genuinely need, what we want and what we are often told we want by others. It is important to recognise the difference between pledges and policies, as the Climate Action Tracker report stressed, and for our words and our actions to cohere, rather than contradict each other. In the run-up to COP26, the Make COP Count coalition, led by Faith for the Climate, focussed on two climate justice asks, one of which was an end to all use of public money to support fossil fuels. The Glasgow Climate Pact,  which was agreed at the end of the COP, contained a “much-contested clause to phase out coal and end fossil fuel subsidies” which was changed at the last minute to talk about phasing down coal instead. An agreed Pact is better than nothing at all, as many government negotiators have commented, but people of faith need to show that this not good enough.

One way that we can do this is through our investments, so that what we campaign for coheres with our practice. This was evidenced by my Christian tradition. Five days before the COP, another coalition, led by Operation Noah and the Laudato Si’ Movement, made the largest ever faith divestment announcement, in which 72 faith institutions, 37 of which are UK-based, announced their divestment from fossil fuels. They join the worldwide divestment movement of 1500 institutions, over a third of which are faith-based. The Christian churches, circuits, dioceses, Synods and national bodies involved in this movement recognise that we can no longer afford to profit from the devastation that results from the use of fossil fuels, that divestment is an ethical and religious imperative.

However, prophetic action is not just about stopping things, and this is where the third strand of critical optimism comes in. Critical positivity is about speaking and acting in ways that pave the way for a better future for all. As Pope Francis said in paragraph 49 of Laudato Si’, “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Human solidarity and ecological solidarity must go hand in hand as we work together to tend the fragile seedlings of hope. The second climate justice ask of the Make COP Count coalition complimented the first in just this way, campaigning for funding to be made available for climate-related loss and damage for the poorest nations and peoples of the world. As has often been observed, these people have contributed the least to the climate emergency, but are suffering the most from its effects. Loss and damage was also blocked at the COP, but as The Conversation’s Jack Marley observed, “the summit showed that this issue is becoming unavoidable.”

Christians, alongside other people of faith, are called to engage in prophetic witness here, too. This involves making strategic decisions about what we do with our money, showing governments and business that we want to play a role in the changes that our world needs, acting in justice and solidarity. As individuals, and as churches at all levels, we can opt to invest in ways that make a positive impact in the lives of the poor and on the future of the planet. Impact investing – and especially climate-related impact investing – is crucial if we are to move beyond our current lifestyles, ways of generating energy and relating to each other into a future that is truly for the good of all God’s creatures.

Operation Noah welcomes news that Shell pulls out of Cambo oil field, and calls for end to all new fossil fuel developments

Posted in: Blog, Featured
Date posted: 3 December 2021

As an official partner of the Stop Cambo campaign, Operation Noah celebrates the news that Shell has withdrawn from the Cambo oil development, west of Shetland.

Prior to Shell’s announcement, over 70 Church of England clergy and bishops, including Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, had added their names to an open letter to the Church of England’s Pensions Board, expressing serious concerns about Shell’s plans for the Cambo oil field. The letter stated that the Church of England Pensions Board, which invests in Shell, ‘must make it clear to Shell that swift and resolute action will follow if it does not immediately abandon plans for the Cambo oil field’.

While Shell has concluded that the project is not financially viable, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if the world is to limit warming to 1.5°C.

The UK Government is now under pressure to officially reject the Cambo oil field. Majority stakeholder in the Cambo oil field, Siccar Point Energy, has expressed its desire to move forward with the project with new backers. If it were to go ahead, the Cambo oil field would produce up to 170 million barrels of oil in the first phase alone, with emissions the equivalent of the annual carbon pollution from 18 coal-fired power stations

According to researchers from Uplift, which is coordinating the Stop Cambo campaign, North Sea oil and gas companies plan to extract at least another 1.7 billion barrels of oil from new fields before 2050. The UK Government is being urged by fossil fuel companies to approve 18 new oil and gas projects over the coming years. Shell is still planning to pursue other new oil and gas projects in UK waters.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘It is wonderful news that Shell has withdrawn from the Cambo oil field, following pressure from campaigners. Following COP26, Churches need to ensure that the UK Government leads by example and rejects the Cambo oil field once and for all. There can be no new oil, gas or coal developments if we are to limit global average temperature rises to 1.5°C. The world urgently needs a fair and fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which ensures climate justice and will create green jobs for years to come.’

In May 2021, the Church of England’s Pensions Board voted in favour of Shell’s energy transition plan, which includes increasing gas production by 20% in the next few years and involves plans to seek out new fossil fuel reserves for years to come.

Shell is also under significant pressure to stop seismic drilling off the coast of South Africa. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to the seismic drilling and more than 30 petrol stations are now boycotting Shell. In September, more than 20 Anglican bishops in Southern Africa called for an immediate halt to gas and oil exploration in Africa.

Most UK Churches, including the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church with £1.3 billion of assets under management, have fully divested from fossil fuel companies. An increasing number of Church of England dioceses are joining them, including the Diocese of Durham, the Diocese of Oxford and the Diocese of Norwich.

Tessa Khan, Director of Uplift, said: ‘This is the end for Cambo. Shell has seen the writing on the wall. Its statement makes it clear that the economics are against new oil and gas developments. But the widespread public and political pressure is what’s made Cambo untenable. This is a message to the UK government that there is no case for new oil and gas. It must put Cambo out of its misery and reject it now.’

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