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.