Operation Noah’s Top 10 Moments of 2023

Posted in: Blog, Featured, News
Date posted: 20 December 2023

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and welcome in the New Year, we first wanted to look back on 2023 by compiling our Top 10 Moments.

Over the past 12 months, the Church has used its voice to challenge climate injustice, its money to invest in climate solutions and its power to stop funding fossil fuels. In our final newsletter of the year, we celebrate the inspiring work of campaigners to care for creation and to mobilise the Church and wider society to do likewise. 

From all of us at Operation Noah – staff and trustees – we want to thank you for your support this year and want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

The Operation Noah Team

In June, we celebrated a huge win for the divestment movement as both the Church Commissioners and Pensions Board announced their divestment from fossil fuel companies. 

The Church of England’s investor engagement efforts had not led to fossil fuel companies transitioning to renewables at the pace required. Once some oil and gas companies said they would row back on already inadequate climate commitments, the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies – which had been instructed by Synod to divest from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement by 2023 – decided to divest. 

The CofE’s decision to get out of fossil fuels was reported by media outlets around the world, from the French Press Agency (AFP) to Reuters and the Financial Times. Read more.

At the start of 2023, 40 Church of England and Roman Catholic dioceses in England and Wales were either investing in fossil fuels or had yet to make a commitment never to invest in fossil fuels in the future. By the end of our Lent campaign, this number had fallen to 31 dioceses and has kept falling since then. Today, between the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church in England in Wales, just 25 dioceses have yet to make a full divestment commitment, with only 11 dioceses still investing in fossil fuels.

In November, about 40 people, including Church asset managers, Operation Noah trustees and others interested in Church investment, attended a conference hosted by Operation Noah and FaithInvest at Friends House in London.

Our keynote speaker, FaithInvest CEO Lorna Gold, addressed the conference’s theme of ‘Financing a Liveable Future’. She was joined throughout the day by a range of panellists, including Mike Sturgess from the Diocese of Truro and Paul Jaffe from the Church of England’s Church Commissioners. 

As more Churches divest from fossil fuels, Operation Noah and FaithInvest are encouraging faith institutions to scale up investment in climate solutions. Not only do fossil fuel emissions need to drop drastically this decade, but studies show that global investment in renewable energy needs to massively increase in order to avoid the worst impacts of global heating. 

Operation Noah co-organised a ‘No Faith in Fossil Fuels’ service at the start of ‘The Big One’ climate protest in April. Following the service, which filled St John’s Waterloo to capacity and included an overflow crowd outside the church, over a thousand campaigners marched to the offices of Shell where we sang Amazing Grace and tried to deliver a letter to the CEO. 

We ended at the Houses of Parliament where we joined the larger ‘Big One’ protest. Along with Operation Noah, Christian charities supporting the ‘No Faith in Fossil Fuels’ service and pilgrimage included Christian Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD, The Salvation Army, A Rocha UK, Christian Climate Action and Green Christian. 

For the first time, Operation Noah had a stall at the New Wine Festival where one of our trustees, Shilpita Mathews, also spoke on a panel. Later in the summer, we had another stall at the Greenbelt Festival where we chaired a Church Land and the Climate Crisis discussion, with contributions from Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK, and Elizabeth Perry of Anglican Alliance.

Our Greenbelt event was well attended, and explored how churches and dioceses can help tackle the climate and nature crises through initiatives like the Anglican Communion’s ‘Communion Forest’ and A Rocha’s Eco Church scheme. 

As fossil fuel companies overheat the planet, underinvest in renewables and explore for new oil and gas against scientific warnings, 31 faith institutions from six countries joined our global divestment announcement in April, proclaiming no faith in fossil fuels by making their assets permanently off limits to fossil fuel companies. 

This year’s announcement by faith institutions represented over $2 billion in assets under management, and included six Church of England cathedrals – among them, Canterbury Cathedral; two Catholic dioceses; seven Church of England dioceses (including the Diocese of London); eight Catholic charities; three Catholic religious orders; two local churches, one Catholic parish; an Anglican Diocese in Australia; and one Jewish institution. Read more

In October, Operation Noah held our 2023 online Supporters’ Event, with three speakers reflecting on our topic, Somewhere Good: The Climate Crisis and the Prophetic Imagination. Our speakers were Chine McDonald, author and Director of Theos, a Christian think tank; Revd Vanessa Elston, a pioneer priest in Southwark Diocese and a climate activist; and Revd Vanessa Conant, Rector of St Mary’s Walthamstow and co-sponsor of a clergy letter from earlier in the year calling on the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels. 

In addition to our speakers, we celebrated our recent campaign wins – particularly the decision by the Church of England’s Pensions Board and Church Commissioners to divest from fossil fuel companies – as well as providing updates on other campaigns. Watch here.

Building momentum in the lead up to the Church of England’s decision to divest from fossil fuels, 226 retired and active CofE clergy, including 10 bishops, signed an open letter to the Pensions Board and Church Commissioners, calling on them to divest from fossil fuels. The letter, co-sponsored by Revd John Nightingale and Revd Vanessa Conant, was promoted by Operation Noah. Read more

As we come to the end of 2023, our research shows that just two Church of England dioceses are still investing in fossil fuels. Earlier this month, we learned that the Diocese of Peterborough, which had previously been in the red category of our CofE Divestment Table, had completed its divestment from fossil fuels, and we are now trying to confirm that Peterborough has no plans to invest in fossil fuels in the future. 

At this time last year, there were still 11 Church of England dioceses investing in fossil fuels, with just 15 dioceses having made a full divestment commitment. But as 2023 comes to a close, only two Church of England dioceses are still invested in fossil fuels with nearly two-thirds of all CofE dioceses (27 of 42) having made a full divestment commitment. 

Following the announcement that the UK Government had given the green light to the massive Rosebank oil field in the North Sea, 427 Christian leaders signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, opposing the decision.

The letter said that Rosebank ‘will not provide energy security, uphold our obligations to care for our global neighbours or create sustainable jobs fit for the green energy future we need’, and included signatures from 20 bishops, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt Revd Rowan Williams, and the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Rt Revd William Nolan. Read more.

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