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Date posted: 21 December 2022
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and welcome in the New Year, we first wanted to look back on 2022 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 society to do likewise.
From all of us at Operation Noah, we want to thank you for your support this year and to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
In early 2022, Julia Corcoran and Sharon Hall joined our Bright Now campaign staff, doubling the size of our team and allowing us to expand the scope of our Bright Now work, which now includes a focus on Church investment in climate solutions and Church land use in addition to our longstanding work on fossil fuel divestment.
Julia is our Bright Now Campaign Manager and comes to us from CAFOD – the international development charity of the Catholic Church in England and Wales – where she worked as the charity’s Leadership Development Coordinator. In November, Julia co-authored our report, ‘Church Investment in Climate Solutions: Financing a Liveable Future’.
Sharon is our Bright Now Campaign Officer and was a Senior Lecturer at Newman University in Birmingham for ten years, specialising in children, young people and families, before becoming involved in environmental campaigning and joining Operation Noah. In September, Sharon co-authored our report, ‘Church Land and the Climate Crisis: A Call to Action’.
In a challenge to the fossil fuel industry’s dangerous expansion plans and empty rhetoric on climate, 35 faith institutions from seven countries announced their divestment from fossil fuel companies as part of July’s Global Divestment Announcement. Organised by the World Council of Churches, Operation Noah, Laudato Si’ Movement, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith, the announcement came from institutions in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the UK and US.
Divesting institutions included five CofE dioceses (the Diocese of Birmingham, Diocese of Durham, Diocese of Leicester, Diocese of Newcastle and Diocese of Worcester); two Catholic dioceses (the Archdiocese of Armagh and Diocese of Leeds); a Church of England cathedral (Leicester Cathedral); the Methodist Church in Ireland; two United Reformed Church Synods; 11 Catholic religious orders; the Catholic Theological Society of America; two Jesuit universities in the US (Marquette University and Loyola University, Chicago); and several local churches.
In September, Operation Noah released a report that made recommendations on ways to reduce and store carbon emissions to one of the country’s largest landowners, the Church of England. The report was also relevant to other UK Churches and Christian groups. The 16-page report – Church Land and the Climate Crisis: A Call to Action – concluded that Church land was contributing to the climate crisis, with agricultural land owned by the CofE likely to create more greenhouse gas emissions than all of its church buildings combined; however, the report added, ‘there is also scope for considerable improvement if rapid and radical action is taken.’
Recommendations included tree-planting, peat restoration/ protection, and implementing more sustainable farming practices. A September webinar launching the report included contributions from Hannah Malcolm (CofE ordinand and Operation Noah trustee); Andy Lester (A Rocha); Alan Radbourne (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology); and report co-author Sharon Hall.
Ahead of the UK Government’s Spring Statement and energy security strategy, 500+ UK Church leaders wrote to the Prime Minister and Chancellor calling on them to tackle the climate emergency, address the cost of living crisis, and stop all new fossil fuel developments.
Signed by 68 Anglican and Catholic bishops, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the open letter challenged the Government to ‘provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK’ – measures which would ‘reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security’.
Churches have a vital role to play in accelerating the transition to net zero emissions, according to ‘Church Investment in Climate Solutions: Financing a Liveable Future’ – a report from Operation Noah relevant to climate campaigners and investors, published in November.
The UN estimates that religious institutions manage a combined $3 trillion (£2.5 trillion) of investments globally. We also know that if the world were to redirect the $570 billion of annual planned oil and gas investments towards renewables, this could fully finance wind and solar expansion in line with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.
Our report explored the opportunities for Church investment in climate solutions, something we discussed as part of our November webinar with a panel that included the report’s co-authors Julia Corcoran and James Buchanan; Lorna Gold (FaithInvest, Laudato Si’ Movement); John O’Shaughnessy (Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative); Mike Sturgess (Diocese of Truro); and Stephen Trew (Church of Ireland).
In June, the Methodist Church of Great Britain unanimously endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty at its annual conference, becoming the first major denomination in the UK to do so. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a movement calling for an end to all new fossil fuel production and exploration, and for a fair, just transition to a fossil-free world.
At its General Assembly in May, the Church of Scotland called for a windfall tax on oil and gas profits, as well as calling for no new fossil fuel developments. And just this month, the heads of eight UK Churches – the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Salvation Army, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Undeb yr Annibynwyr/Union of Welsh Independent Churches, Quakers in Britain and the Scottish Episcopal Church – called on Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak to stop the Cumbria coal mine.
In an open letter published in the Church Times in February, six bishops and 130 CofE clergy including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Revd Dr Sam Wells (Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields) and Revd Lucy Winkett (Rector of St James’s Church, Piccadilly) called on the Church of England’s Church Commissioners to divest from oil giant ExxonMobil.
In January, the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies put ExxonMobil on their list of ‘restricted’ investments for failing to meet the Church’s environmental standards. Despite the restriction, the CofE’s Church Commissioners said they would continue to invest in ExxonMobil.
In 2022, Operation Noah held two webinars exploring alternatives to fossil fuels. Our May webinar, The Global Church and the Fossil Fuelled Five with writer and environmental campaigner Bill McKibben, explored five wealthy nations – the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Norway – that have a widening gap between their green rhetoric and their plans to expand fossil fuel production. Our panel – which included Revd Rachel Mash (Green Anglicans) and Pastor Ray Minniecon (Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation) – explored how the Church should respond.
And in June at our online Supporters’ Event, we welcomed Svitlana Romanko – a Ukrainian environmental campaigner and lawyer – and Rt Revd Manuel Ernesto, the Anglican bishop of Nampula in Mozambique, to speak to us on Alternatives to Fossil Fuelled Violence: Listening to Our Global Neighbours. The event was chaired by Operation Noah trustee Shilpita Mathews, and included a pre-recorded talk from South Africa’s Revd Rachel Mash.
On the eve of the ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies shareholder meetings in May, Christian climate campaigners gathered outside Church House in Central London – the Church of England’s headquarters – to pray for the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels.
Organised by Operation Noah and Young Christian Climate Network, the vigil was led by Revd Helen Burnett, the vicar of St Peter & St Paul, Chaldon. Burnett said the vigil was not just a time to pray for change, but also a time to lament the fact that the Church of England was continuing to profit from fossil fuels despite the harm fossil fuels were doing to people and the planet.
This year, Operation Noah was shortlisted for the ‘David & Goliath Award’ as part of the National Campaigner Awards 2022, presented by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. The award goes to ‘individuals or small campaign groups that take on much bigger organisations and challenge vested power’.
Though Operation Noah has a small staff and income, our Bright Now campaign has seen almost every major denomination in the UK divest from fossil fuels, and we are now able to say that over a third of all Church of England dioceses have now formally divested from fossil fuels or have pledged not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.