News

PRESS RELEASE (Updated): Former Archbishop of Canterbury, 60+ bishops and 500+ church leaders write to PM and Chancellor calling for renewables push

Posted in: Articles, Blog, News
Date posted: 21 March 2022

  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and 67 other Anglican and Catholic bishops sign an open letter to the Government, pushing back on more fossil fuels.
  • Church leaders from around the UK are calling for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to tackle the cost of living crisis and for energy efficiency measures to reduce heating bills.
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Ahead of COP26, 72 Institutions Make Largest-Ever Faith Divestment Announcement

Posted in: Blog, Featured, News

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and UK faith groups representing nearly 2,000 local churches announce divestment before UN Climate Conference

Tuesday 26 October 2021: Today, five days before the UN climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, and four days before the G20 Summit in Rome, 72 faith institutions, including 37 from the UK, announce their divestment from fossil fuels in the largest-ever joint divestment announcement by religious organisations.

The global divestment announcement comes from faith institutions with more than $4.2 billion of combined assets under management in Australia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Ukraine, the UK, the United States and Zambia.

Participating institutions include the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland; the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church; the Presbyterian Church of Wales; the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; 15 Catholic dioceses in the UK and Ireland, including the Archdioceses of Glasgow, St Andrews & Edinburgh, Birmingham and Southwark; the Church of England Dioceses of Truro and Sodor & Man; and the Buddhist religious movement Soka Gakkai International – UK. The UK Churches and dioceses involved in this announcement represent nearly 2,000 local churches.

It follows the recent call from Pope Francis and other faith leaders to global governments to address the ‘unprecedented ecological crisis’ ahead of COP26 and calls from an international alliance of grassroots multi-faith activists who have called for an immediate end to all fossil fuel finance. Today’s announcement shows an increasing number of Catholic institutions are responding to the recent Vatican recommendation to divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in climate solutions.

Bishop Bill Nolan, Bishop of Galloway and Lead Bishop on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said: ‘The bishops decided that disinvestment would show that the status quo is not acceptable and further, that given the harm that the production and consumption of fossil fuels is causing to the environment and to populations in low income countries, it was not right to profit from investment in these companies. Disinvestment is a sign that justice demands that we must move away from fossil fuels.’

Many UK Churches have fully divested from fossil fuel companies this year, including the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales and the Baptist Union.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown exponentially in recent years. According to a new report published today, more than 1,485 institutions with combined assets of over $39 trillion have made some form of divestment commitment, up from a starting point of $50 billion in 2014. Faith institutions have been at the forefront of the global divestment movement, representing more than 35% of total commitments. Glasgow, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Seattle and Auckland are also announcing their divestment commitments today, joining the C40 Divest / Invest Forum supporting the advancement of divestment of their city and pension funds. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) stated in its recent Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap that there can be no new coal, oil and gas developments if the world is to limit global warming to below 1.5°C and prevent catastrophic climate impacts. As world leaders prepare to meet at COP26, the UK Government is coming under increasing pressure over plans for the Cambo oil field off the coast of Scotland, supported by oil giant Shell, which would release emissions equivalent to the annual carbon pollution from 18 coal-fired power stations.

Last month, more than 20 Southern African Anglican bishops including the Archbishop of Cape Town, the three bishops of Mozambique and the Bishop of Namibia called for an immediate halt to gas and oil exploration in Africa. They said that ‘a new era of economic colonialism by fossil fuel companies is well underway’ and that ‘Africa’s natural habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate through the extraction of oil and gas’.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘As the UK prepares to host COP26, we are delighted that 37 UK faith institutions have decided to divest from fossil fuel companies and join this record global divestment announcement. We call on the UK and global governments to end fossil fuel subsidies and bring an immediate halt to new oil and gas exploration, including the Cambo oil field.’

A full list of the 72 institutions divesting from fossil fuels and quotes from leaders can be found here.

Statements from leaders:

Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, said: ‘Our commitment to divestment in fossil fuels is a response both to the cry of the earth and of the poor, taking us one step further towards its consolation. We join many other faith organisations who are making the ethical choice to ‘take care not to support companies that harm human or social ecology… or environmental ecology’, as Pope Francis calls us to do in the Vatican’s manual Journeying Towards Care For Our Common Home. To see so many united in this aim gives me great hope for the future.’

David Palmer, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, said: ‘The pace of change across the oil and gas sector has been inadequate and falls well below the targets set at COP21 in Paris. We hope that COP26 will refresh these targets and we look forward to joining other faith groups in Glasgow next month in calling for immediate action to address the climate emergency.’

Revd Evan Morgan, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, said: ‘Our General Assembly passed a resolution to divest from fossil fuels this year as part of our new green environmental policy as a denomination. We realise time is running out and to safeguard the planet and fulfil our role as stewards of God’s creation, the Church amongst other organisations must act. The time for words, however well meaning, is over and actions now are the order of the day and to be proactive in our response to the challenges of the climate crisis.’

Rt Revd Dr David Bruce, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said: ‘At its General Assembly on 5 October 2021, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland directed its trustees to employ a new strategy in relation to companies producing fossil fuels or deriving part of their turnover from their use. Specifically this will mean divesting from those companies that derive more than 10% of their turnover from oil and gas extraction and engaging with other companies which are major users of fossil fuels. We believe that our investment policies should be informed by the biblical understanding of creation that leads to a commitment to God’s world and to our global neighbours.’

Robert Harrap, General Director of Soka Gakkai International – UK, said: ‘As a Buddhist organisation based on a philosophy of respect for the dignity of life and the non-duality of the individual and the environment, it is important to us that we invest sustainably and responsibly. Our trustees have decided to divest from fossil fuels because this is a key way to protect our precious planet and the people most at risk from the climate crisis.’

Bishop Luke Pato of Namibia said: ‘We are guardians of the land for the generations to come. Namibia is the driest country south of the Sahara and our ground water is the heritage we leave for our children and grandchildren. We cannot risk drilling operations that pollute precious water sources, abuse indigneous rights and threaten the heritage site of the Okavango Delta.’

Lorna Gold, Chair of Laudato Si’ Movement, said: ‘People of faith are divesting at scale from coal, oil and gas, calling on the G20 in Rome and world leaders at COP26 to finally conclude that there is no future for fossil fuel finance. Fossil fuel divestment is a key part of ensuring a just transition for all, especially communities around the world who have done least to cause the climate crisis.’

Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator of Green Anglicans, said: ‘Faced with environmental devastation, pollution of precious water sources and abuse of land rights caused by fossil fuel companies, it is easy for those on the frontline of climate change to feel overwhelmed by the power of these corporations. When we hear that faith communities are taking their money out of these companies, it rekindles hope that we are not alone.’

Revd Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, said: ‘In the midst of a climate emergency, fossil fuel divestment is a moral imperative. More and more religious groups – Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish as well as Christian – must continue to add their names to the growing list of divestment commitments, and must also lead the way by investing in ensuring access to clean energy for absolutely everyone – particularly the 800 million people who lack electricity.’

ENDS

Contact: Cameron Conant, Operation Noah: communications@operationnoah.org

James Buchanan, Operation Noah: james.buchanan@operationnoah.org

Notes for editors:

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. Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign encourages UK Churches to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions. brightnow.org.uk3. The Vatican recommended divestment from fossil fuel companies in June 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vatican-environment-idUSKBN23P1HI

3. The Vatican recommended divestment from fossil fuel companies in June 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vatican-environment-idUSKBN23P1HI

4. In September, more than 20 Southern African Anglican bishops called for an immediate halt to gas and oil exploration in Africa. https://www.greenanglicans.org/anglican-bishops-call-for-an-immediate-halt-to-gas-and-oil-exploration-in-africa/

5. The International Energy Agency (IEA) stated in its Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap that there can be no new coal, oil and gas developments if the world is to limit global warming to below 1.5°C. https://www.iea.org/news/pathway-to-critical-and-formidable-goal-of-net-zero-emissions-by-2050-is-narrow-but-brings-huge-benefits

6. The Global Divestment Announcement Statement can be found at the bottom of this blog: https://brightnow.org.uk/news/global-divestment-announcement-divest-your-church-cop26/

Divest the Church of England: register for our 18 May online training session

Posted in: Blog, Campaigning, Events, News
Date posted: 28 April 2022

The Church of England is still heavily invested in fossil fuels despite the fact that oil, gas and coal are literally fuelling the climate crisis, but with your help, we can change that. Register for our one-hour ‘Divest the Church of England’ training session, which we’ll hold on Wednesday 18 May from 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Zoom. 

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Operation Noah’s Bright Now Campaign Shortlisted for ‘David & Goliath’ Award

Posted in: Articles, Blog, News
Date posted: 28 April 2022

Operation Noah has learned that our Bright Now campaign has been shortlisted for the ‘David & Goliath Award’ as part of the National Campaigner Awards 2022, presented by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.

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Divest the Church of England: attend our online training session on 15 March

Posted in: Blog, Events, News
Date posted: 7 March 2022

The Church of England is still heavily invested in fossil fuels despite the fact that oil, gas and coal are literally fuelling the climate crisis, but with your help, we can change that. Register for our one-hour ‘Divest the Church of England’ training session, which we’ll hold Zoom on Tuesday 15 March at 5.30pm. Register for this one-hour training session here.

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COP26: A missed opportunity, but scope to build momentum for climate justice

Posted in: Blog, News, Uncategorized

Operation Noah trustee Shilpita Mathews – an environmental economist and official COP26 observer – and Bright Now Campaign Manager James Buchanan share their experiences and reflections from COP26 in Glasgow.

Operation Noah Trustee Shilpita Mathews at COP26 in Glasgow

By Shilpita Mathews and James Buchanan

Like many other climate activists from the UK and around the world, we spent several days in Glasgow during COP26, participating in events and praying and acting for climate justice, especially for the vulnerable communities most affected by the climate crisis here and now.

Shilpita spent a week in the Blue Zone (where official COP26 negotiations took place) with the Christian Climate Observer Program (CCOP), while James represented Operation Noah as a panellist at various events, spent time with a group of ‘Pilgrimage2Paris’ pilgrims and organised a webinar with faith partners from across the global divestment movement.

Life in the Blue Zone (Shilpita Mathews)

Climate change is a spiritual issue: My COP26 highlights included meeting former US Vice President Al Gore and his daughter Karenna Gore (Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York) as part of the Christian Climate Observer Program (CCOP). The Gores listened to our climate journeys, shared their experiences and gave advice on connecting faith with climate action. One thing that resonated between this and the talk by Bill Mckibben (see below) was the need for recognising the climate crisis as a moral, ethical and spiritual issue reflecting a crisis within our hearts, one that is manifested in environmental injustices. 

Transition is inevitable, justice is not: This phrase resonated from negotiation rooms, to climate marches, to talks by campaigners, to CEO presentations. Despite this, COP26 was a microcosm of larger global injustices. In the Blue Zone, after shadowing the Renew our World campaign for a day, I saw first-hand the rejection indigenous communities received behind closed doors, or how representatives from developing countries were often excluded from discussions on topics most important to them, like loss and damage. 

We need to build bridges during a time of crisis: It was very encouraging to spend time with Operation Noah partners at the COP26 Climate Sunday stall in the Green Zone, and to celebrate all of the successes to date. I was particularly inspired by ambitious ecumenical and interfaith climate action at COP26, which was on display at numerous events. In fact, if people of faith, who represent more than 80% of the world’s population, came together, a just transition to limit global average temperature rises to 1.5°C could become a reality.

Shilpita Mathews (front row, far left) with members of the Climate Sunday coalition: a group of over 30 Christian charities and most UK denominations.

Finding hope in the road ahead: This was my first COP, and what was most overwhelming for me was the polarisation between the Blue Zone, where negotiations took place, and the fringes of COP26. This is what Lorna Gold of the Laudato Si’ Movement and FaithInvest calls, ‘a tale of two COPs’. While there have been glimpses of hope, with various Blue Zone leaders meaningfully engaging and representing frontline communities, there is a long road ahead. But what gave me hope was the action across non-governmental communities, from the unity shown amongst faith communities, to commitments made by the private sector and academia, to go beyond what has been agreed.

For more of my reflections, you can watch the videos I made from the Blue Zone at COP26 on the Operation Noah Twitter and Facebook accounts.

On the fringes of COP26 (James Buchanan and Shilpita Mathews)

Some of the most encouraging and prophetic actions took place on the fringes of COP26. One major highlight was joining the final day of the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) Relay to COP26 and the closing service at St George’s Tron, in the centre of Glasgow.

It was an amazing achievement – the result of incredible commitment demonstrated by Christians aged 18-30 to organise the Relay to COP26 from the G7 in Cornwall in June to COP26 in Glasgow at the end of October.

Members of Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) arrive in Glasgow for COP26.

We also had some excellent meetings, both planned and unexpected, with partners, campaigners and supporters, as well as old and new friends. Following a multi-faith vigil in George Square in the centre of Glasgow, we were delighted to meet Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK. We also met one of our heroes, Bill McKibben, who co-founded 350.org and initiated the fossil fuel divestment movement, as he delivered a lecture at the University of Glasgow.

James Buchanan and Shilpita Mathews with writer and activist Bill McKibben (centre), founder of the global divestment movement and of the environmental charity, 350.org.

Reflections on our COP26 event: Fossil Fuel Divestment, Climate Justice and a Just Transition for All (James Buchanan)

Operation Noah’s main event at COP26 took place on Monday 8 November and was organised in partnership with Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans, World Council of Churches, GreenFaith, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund, SCIAF and Eco-congregation Scotland. The event was entitled, Fossil Fuel Divestment, Climate Justice and a Just Transition for All.

The panel of speakers included Lorna Gold (Chair of Laudato Si’ Movement), Mark Campanale (Founder and Executive Chair of Carbon Tracker), Rt Revd Olivia Graham (Bishop of Reading), Pastor Ray Minniecon (Australian indigenous Anglican pastor) and Sally Foster Fulton (Head of Christian Aid Scotland). I also joined the speaker panel.

The event included several inspiring and challenging contributions, especially from Pastor Ray Minniecon. Lorna Gold, Chair of Laudato Si’ Movement, wrote about the event: ‘Everyone should watch this – from start to end. Most honest and uncomfortable event I attended at COP26.’

COP26 conclusions: A missed opportunity, but scope to build momentum in 2022

The world needs to phase out of all types of fossil fuels: The outcomes of COP26 have been widely covered in the media, with much of the focus being on the last-minute proposal from India and China to ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal. Yet the world needs to phase out oil and gas too, not only coal – starting with the wealthiest nations that have contributed most to the climate crisis. Furthermore, the US and China had already agreed to the ‘phase down’ wording in a joint agreement issued days before.

There has been less attention given to the hugely disappointing announcement days before COP26 that the $100 billion in climate finance promised to developing countries would not be met until 2023, despite the wealthiest nations having pledged at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 to meet the target by 2020. This is an abdication of moral responsibility and did little to build trust with nations most affected by the climate crisis. Many of these countries said that they would reluctantly sign the Glasgow Climate Pact, in spite of inadequate financing for loss and damage.

One of the most positive developments during COP26 was the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an alliance launched by Denmark and Costa Rica to phase out oil and gas production. Among the countries to sign up were France, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden, as well as Wales, Quebec and Greenland. The group has committed to setting an end date for oil and gas extraction.

The time is now for Churches to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions

There has never been a more important time to call on UK Churches to divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in climate solutions, such as renewable energy. This will send a clear signal to our governments – here in the UK and around the world – about the urgent need to move beyond fossil fuels and rapidly cut emissions.

There are signs that the pressure is working. Just days after COP26, Nicola Sturgeon spoke out against the new Cambo oil field off the west coast of Scotland. The Cambo oil field, led by Shell and Siccar Point Energy, would lead to emissions equivalent to the annual carbon pollution from 18 coal-fired power stations. If the UK government is to act with integrity and retain any credibility following COP26, it must bring an immediate end to new oil and gas projects, starting with Cambo.

In 2022, Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign will continue calling on UK Churches – including the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and Catholic and CofE dioceses – to join the vast majority of UK Churches in divesting from fossil fuel companies. We will continue our collaboration with partners around the world and seek to amplify voices from the global South, including indigenous communities, especially ahead of the Lambeth Conference that begins in July 2022.

How you can respond

Thank you to all of you who have supported Operation Noah and our Bright Now campaign in 2021. We are grateful for your support as we continue the campaign for fossil free Churches and investment in climate solutions in 2022! Here are three practical ways to respond: 

Divest your church with Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign: Read our reflections on what COP26 means for Church investments in fossil fuel companies on the Bright Now website.

Donate to Operation Noah: Find out more about making a donation or give regularly to support Operation Noah’s work.

Apply for new roles at Operation Noah: Finally, watch this space for exciting developments as we scale up our work on investment in climate solutions and nature-based solutions! We are currently recruiting for a new Bright Now Campaign Manager and Bright Now Campaign Officer to join our growing team. You can find out more about both of the roles and how to apply here.

Did the Church of England Flood My Church Hall?

Posted in: Blog, News

Cameron Conant reflects on fossil fuels and the recent flooding in London.

A scene from Walthamstow, London on Sunday 25 July 2021 (Photo by Paul Gasson)

By Cameron Conant

On Sunday, I joined a group of my fellow parishioners and campaigners in Walthamstow, London for a meeting about our ‘Just Transition’ climate campaign, which aims to make London a greener, fairer city. We ordered food, got the meeting space well-ventilated and – mindful of Covid transmission – worked out how we might hold most of the meeting outside. But, unfortunately, it was raining. Not just raining, actually, but something beyond raining. A deluge. It soon became clear that not only would we not be meeting outside, but that something dangerous was happening.

The roof of the church hall (our meeting space) began to leak almost everywhere. After we used every bucket we could find, we grabbed the plastic containers our take-away food had arrived in to collect the rainwater that was pouring into the building. While we were fortunate to be in a building set on relatively high ground, many of my neighbours in Walthamstow were not so lucky and would soon find their lounges, front rooms and kitchens submerged in a foot or more of water.  

In the end, Walthamstow and other parts of London got weeks, perhaps months, of rain in a few hours, with some roads impassable, Tube stations out of service. Of course, we know that with climate change, these sorts of events will become increasingly common for a very simple reason: warmer air holds more water.

Walthamstow got off lightly compared to other parts of the world – Germany had just experienced deadly flooding, as had Belgium, China and India – but what made my situation this past Sunday particularly ironic was that I found myself bailing water out of my Church of England church hall due to a weather event that the Church of England – my denomination – was ensuring would become more frequent.

Sadly, two of the Church of England’s investment bodies – the Church Commissioners and the Pensions Board – still collectively have tens of millions of pounds invested in fossil fuels, the very industry that, quite literally, is fuelling the climate crisis. Despite some clever attempts to rebrand themselves as renewable energy companies, none of the big fossil fuel companies are Paris-compliant; indeed, all have plans to extract more oil, gas and coal than the International Energy Agency says can be safely burned. And yet, remarkably, the Church of England’s Church Commissioners are not merely invested in fossil fuels, but are specifically invested in ExxonMobil, a company that has continually resisted investing in renewable energy, ran a years-long public disinformation campaign to stall action on climate change and was recently caught on camera admitting that they still work behind the scenes to stop climate legislation.

While I can’t say that the Church of England directly flooded my church hall – Walthamstow has flooded before, and it’s difficult to tie any single weather event to human-driven climate change, let alone measure the impact particular investors might have on overall carbon emissions  – we know that putting more carbon into the atmosphere loads the dice and makes it more likely that the world will ‘roll’ certain weather outcomes. I also can’t say the Church of England’s Church Commissioners or Pensions Board are bad people with bad intentions; both believe investor activism will lead to a reduction in emissions, which they say is their goal.

However, it’s time to admit that, despite good intentions, fossil fuel investor activism has failed: after years of engagement, fossil fuel emissions have yet to show any sustained signs of decreasing; fossil fuel companies are still not Paris-compliant; and the climate crisis is becoming ever more serious. Handing fossil fuel companies, whose primary interest is to protect their assets (which are mostly fossil fuels), what effectively amounts to a blank cheque in the hope that these companies will do something other than what they were set up to do, hasn’t produced the change we need.

For these reasons and more, I would implore my fellow Anglicans to join me in calling on the Church of England to divest from all fossil fuels immediately, and to take that same amount of money and invest it in climate solutions. And I would implore any church or diocese (and only 3 of 42 Church of England dioceses have divested) to join Operation Noah’s Global Divestment Announcement in October. Together, we can tell the Church of England’s Church Commissioners and Pensions Board that we literally can’t live like this, and that their financing of the climate crisis must stop.

Cameron is a writer, consultant, campaigner and Operation Noah Trustee.

New book: A Light for the Pathway

Posted in: News

Operation Noah Patron, Bishop David Atkinson, has written a new book exploring the Psalms.

What did the Psalmists of Israel believe? How did they practice their religion? What impact did their faith in God had on the way they handled the struggles and uncertainties of life? How does this speak to us today?

A Light for the Pathway explores some themes which underlie the faith of the psalmists; for example, covenant, creation, law, justice, humanity, suffering, lament, restoration and pilgrimage. Holding these together is the overarching theme of God’s steadfast love throughout their history. The psalms are prayers and praises, often used in temple worships, some intimate and personal, many corporate and full of thanksgiving. Some are celebrations of the kingly rule of God over all creation. How do we Christians today approach this ancient hymn book, which is full of poetic imagination and deep spirituality? How can it help our own journeys on our pathways of faith and hope? This side of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, can we hear in the psalms words of comfort for our struggles of faith, as well as joy in our worship, in today’s confusing world?

Bishop David Atkinson, former Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, is a retired Church of England bishop and a patron of Operation Noah. He is the author of several books, including Renewing the Face of the Earth: a theological and pastoral response to Climate Change.

Order A Light for the Pathway

Registered charity number 1138101