August 29, 2021
From Extinction Rebellion (UK)
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Sunday 29th August: Sixteen members of Christian Climate Action, including several clergy members, today staged a protest inside St Paul’s Cathedral to demand the Church of England divest from fossil fuels. [1]

Immediately following Communion at a Eucharist service, the group processed to the altar and, facing the congregation, held up banners that read: ‘No Faith in Fossil Fuels’ and ‘Churches Divest Now’. 

Christian Climate Action is demanding the Church makes an immediate pledge to end all investment in fossil fuel companies and completes that divestment by 31st December 2021. 

The CCA is also asking the Church to speak out urgently and call for immediate action to prevent irreversible climate impacts and ensure a liveable planet for all of God’s creation.

The Church of England dioceses, Church Commissioners and Pensions Board currently hold investments in fossil fuel companies worth an estimated £70 million. To date, just three out of 42 Church of England dioceses have announced divestment plans. [2]

The action by Christian Climate Action is part of Extinction Rebellion’s two-week Impossible Rebellion currently taking place in Central London. [3]

As well as the intervention inside the cathedral, a group gathered on the steps outside with banners displaying the same messages.

Rev’d Canon Jonathan Herbert from Hillfield in Devon, one of those involved in the protest, said: “The Church Commissioners and Pension Board rightly don’t invest in companies producing arms or tobacco, but surely investing in fossil fuels, with what we now know, is almost as deadly. It’s time for the Church Commissioners to take a lead and divest from death-dealing fossil fuels.

Rev’d Tim Hewes from Oxfordshire, 71, said: “The Pensions Board and the Church Commissioners, by investing in fossil fuels. mistakenly believe that they can steer these all-powerful companies towards climate friendly policies. After years of engagement we know it’s not working. These companies are deaf to the entreaties of the church. We need to divest.

Rev’d Bill White, 66, said: “I am agitated by the complacency of the institutions of the Church in the light of the climate crisis. St Pauls’ values include being “people of integrity…looking after the Cathedral for the next generation.

There will be no need for a cathedral in a dead world. Creation is also a cathedral and our inaction is destroying it. The Church must be a prophetic leader to our nation and announce we have divested from fossil fuels.

Since 2013, most major Christian denominations have made a commitment to divest from fossil fuels including the Quakers, Church of Ireland, United Reformed Churches, Methodist Church, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales and the Baptist Union. Worldwide, more than 400 religious organisations have made commitments to divest in recent years.[4] 

The Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church are the only major denominations still investing in fossil fuels. [5] 

The action comes just three weeks after a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that: “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.” [6]

Nine out of ten young Christians are concerned about the climate crisis but only one in ten think their churches are doing enough about it, according to research by the Tearfund. [7]

Church Commissioners have agreed to begin divesting from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement in 2023. However, that goal would exclude a company like Shell, which while claiming to be aligned to Paris is nonetheless still committed to future fossil fuel exploration. Earlier this year the International Energy Agency said that investment in new fossil fuel production must end this year if the global energy sector is to reach net zero emissions by 2050.[8]

The CCA has written to several leading members of the Church of England including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin of Welby, Bishops and Directors of Finance of the 21 dioceses still investing in fossil fuels. They have also requested a meeting with the Bishop of London and Director of Finance to discuss their demands.[9]

In November, world leaders will meet in Glasgow at the COP26 conference to discuss the climate crisis. The Church needs to lead by example in the run up to this historic meeting. As the recent IPCC report states starkly – humanity is running out of time!

Notes to editors

[1] Christian Climate Action is a community of Christians supporting each other to take meaningful action in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate breakdown. We are inspired by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. Following the example of social justice movements of the past, we carry out acts of public witness, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to urge those in power to make the changes needed. Since November 2018 we have worked closely with Extinction Rebellion and have become known as the Christians in XR. www.christianclimateaction.org.

[2] Source of investment data: National Investing Bodies report to General Synod  (p.24-26) states that 0.5% of the Church Commissioners’ portfolio is invested in oil and gas companies (i.e. 0.5% of the Church Commissioners’ £9.2 billion portfolio = £46 million) and that the Church of England Pensions Board has £8.9 million invested in oil and gas companies. https://www.desmog.com/2020/07/17/church-invested-18m-fossil-fuels-methodology/

[3] More details about Extinction Rebellion’s Impossible Rebellion are here: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/next-uk-rebellion/

[4] Denominations which have divested: https://brightnow.org.uk/news/pressure-on-the-oil-industry-dutch-court-ruling-and-iea-energy-report/

[5] For more details on Church of England investments in fossil fuels by diocese, and other UK church investments, see this briefing document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HhY95jT79tRRW63eB3Ok0SA-5xp6u5wyxSSU6cAVnvQ/edit?usp=sharing 

[6] The IPCC says that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying: https://www.ipcc.ch/2021/08/09/ar6-wg1-20210809-pr/

[7] Tearfund research: https://wearetearfund.org/burning-down-the-house/

[8] International Energy Agency calls for end to funding of new fossil fuel projects: https://www.ft.com/content/2bf04fff-5b2f-4d96-a4ea-ff55e029f18e

[9] Full text of the letter is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nVOrXHMeo4JpOP_CN4R_KIixlDBmXZed/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=106966740779910478640&rtpof=true&sd=true

QUOTES FROM OTHER MEMBERS OF CCA INVOLVED IN THE ACTION

  • Ruth Jarman: ‘We are demanding the immediate end to the Church’s investment in fossil fuels at this critical point in the history of humanity – following the IPCC report and ahead of UK hosting of COP26. I believe the Church Commissioners and Pensions Board believe they are doing the right thing by trying to engage fossil fuel companies via engagement but they need to update their strategy in the light of the ‘Code Red for Humanity’ as outlined in the most recent IPCC report and by the Head of the UN. The Church needs to take up its prophetic role at this time and dump fossil fuels.’
  • Sue Hampton, 65, an author and a Quaker from Berkhamsted: ‘I believe that protecting life on earth is what love requires and that it is the sacred duty of the church to cut ties with the industry responsible for climate injustice.’
  • Ben Buse, 36, a research associate and a member of the Church of England: ‘I feel the Church must be prophetic in managing its assets, its life and preaching, with addressing the climate and ecological crisis in a way that is real to our faith. We need to stand in solidarity with the suffering of the earth and people.’
  • Susie Peeler, 59, a university lecturer and antenatal teacher who was arrested during a climate change protest in 2019: ‘As a Christian I must act to protect God’s creation from human greed and exploitation. My faith compels me to act. If that means further arrest in order to highlight the issues then I am prepared for that.’
  • Kate Chesterman, 55, a university administrator who was also arrested at a climate change protest in 2019: ‘The Church should be leading the way on care of the earth and social justice. It is entirely inappropriate for the Church to continue funding fossil fuels given what we know. IN particular we should not be funding companies who have proactively misled the public on the extent of the damage that is being caused.’
  • Paul Cooper, 75, a retired landscape architect: ‘The Church needs to act as if it believes that God made the world by stopping investing in fossil fuel companies that are destroying it.’
  • Claire Cooper, 63, a retired physiotherapist: ‘The latest IPCC report is the final warning to humanity. The Church, above all, should take the lead in divesting from fossil fuels immediately.’ 
  • Caroline Harmon, 41, a trainer: ‘Jesus didn’t stand aside when he saw injustice. He threw unjust traders out of the temple and prioritised the most vulnerable. We are doing the same today. We see injustice in the way in which the Church of England invests its money and we have come to the ‘ temple’ of our time – a prominent church building – to demand urgent change.’
  • Val King, 61, Employee-Ownership Consultant: ‘I am here as one of the millions of Christians on our planet; I believe we could become a beacon of hope and justice in the face of the climate crisis. But we have to hold those in power to account to act on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable and all of Creation.’
  • Rachie Ross, 53, therapeutic coach, youth worker and theologian: ‘I’m asking the question: when did we lose our God-given evolutionary instinct to protect our young? Every other species protects and safeguards their young, just stand between a seagull and their nest or a sow and her piglets. When did we leave the garden of Eden with such force? I cannot let Jesus name be dragged through the flood and fire and I will not stand by and say nothing.’
  • Jackie Kightly, 53, a catholic from Wrexham: ‘I’ve not been arrested before but I feel we have a moral duty to do all we can to help those who’ve least contributed to the climate crisis but are suffering the most. Divesting from fossil fuels is the bare minimum that Churches, corporations, institutions and governments should be doing.’
  • Stephen Jarvis, 65, retired plumber, teacher and designer: ‘In the light of the latest IPCC report, the time for engagement with fossil fuel companies is over. If the Church is to have any credibility in the world today it must share the dust of coal and fossil fuels from its sandals and proclaim a gospel of care for God’s earth and the poor. With COP26 on the horizon there is no better time.’
  • Dr Michelle Barnes, 52, former geologist, business woman and climate change activist: ‘It is morally reprehensible that the Church of England, into which I was confirmed, still has fossil fuel investments of £70 million. This cannot be reconciled with Christian values. Being stewards of God’s creation requires that we act and with all the urgency that the urgency that the dire situation of climate breakdown requires.’

ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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Source: Extinctionrebellion.uk