- Explain More About How Faiths have Divested
- Exaplain More About FBOs Investing in Climate Solutions
- Explain More About the Financial Risks
- Explain More About Human Rights in the Preamble of the Paris Agreement
- Explain More about Sovereign Wealth Funds and Public Sector Pension Funds
- Explain More about Adaptation, Loss and Damage
- Explain More About Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies
- Faith-based Advocacy, Statements, Campaigns, Petitions etc.
- How are Faith Based Organisations Reducing Emissions?
Proportionally, the faith sector has likely made more divest commitments, to date, than any other sector.
In 2016, one Buddhist organisation in Australia and eleven Catholic organizations on four continents jointly and publicly divested from coal, oil and gas and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa passed a motion during its provincial Synod to divest from fossil fuels. More Catholic divestment announcements are expected in March 2017.
In 2015, 126 religious institutions with assets of US$24 billion committed, to some form of divestment from fossil fuels.
- In May 2015, the Church of England's General Synod voted in favour of policies to mitigate climate change and divesting from tar sands and coal companies – this is the first time they had ever imposed investment restrictions on environmental grounds.
- In June 2015, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) announced its policy to not to invest in fossil fuels. This action is taken as part of its long-standing commitment to climate justice. The LWF Council also called on its member churches “not to invest in fossil fuels and to support energy efficiency and renewable energy companies, and to encourage their institutions and individual members to do likewise.” This is an important milestone and puts action behind LWF's commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
- In July 2014, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same.
- In April 2014, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that “To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands. People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”
- The Divest & Reinvest Now! Campaign coordinated by GreenFaith, which began in 2013, is mobilizing faith communities to support fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment in a clean energy future.
For some FBOs in the Global North, divestment is used in combination with other shareholder engagement strategies, in line with their fiduciary duties. See the work of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) here. However recent analysis by CERES has found that while shareholder resolutions on climate change are on the rise, their influence, based on coverage, intent, and overall shareholder support in voting outcomes is modest.
Divestment Strategies - Spread the Risk
While divestment strategies have varied across each institution, with differing timelines and extents of divestments - the most common strategy has been for institutions to divest from the 200 publicly traded fossil-fuel companies with the highest amount of reported carbon reserves.
As FBOs depend on their investments to pay for salaries, pensions, operations and other institutional costs, the potential opportunities and risks of divesting need to be carefully balanced and monitored. As an example, for the Passionists in Australia they invest prudently and have four fund managers so as not to put all of their money into one fund. Thus, any risk is spread across their portfolios. Smaller FBOs will not use fund managers which makes the job of finding out the percentage of fossil fuel in their stocks harder to ascertain.
Will the Vatican Divest?
In Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si' (June 2015), the Pope suggested such actions are consistent with responsible stewardship of Nature.“Boycotting certain products,” he said in the Laudato Si address, can compel businesses “to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production.”
In September 2016, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was more explicit when he said that the fossil fuel divestment movement is based on the same logic of applying social pressure on businesses that Pope Francis encourages in Laudato Si’. He presented this message on behalf of the Pope on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (September 1st).
Divestment from fossil fuels was also clearly written in a COP21 statement from the Catholic Bishop Conferences from all Continents in 2015.
More Commitments Needed From Global South
While the percentage of fossil fuel divestment commitments by faith communities is one of the highest of all divesting sectors, the overwhelming majority of commitments to date have been from Christian FBOs in the Global North, though it is noted that Islamic Relief (based in the UK) made a commitment to divest in 2015.
In the Global South, while a number of Australian and New Zealand Christian groups have committed to divest, the only known Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim organisation to have made public their divestment from fossil fuels is the Sydney Buddhist Centre and this was done by switching their bank account to a fossil-free bank. Slow progress can be attributed to a lack of awareness on divestment in the Global South, a lack of historical participation there in past faith-based divestment campaigns and that the divest-invest movement doesn’t have the same multi-sector momentum it does in the Global North, though 350.org are doing good work in Asia.
Please see this link to see a fuller list of FBOs that have divested.
“We’re now moving from avoiding harm, to proactive investments that address the challenges facing the world,” says John O’Shaughnessy, the CEO and CFO of Franciscan Sisters of Mary (FSM) in St. Louis, which runs a nonprofit health system throughout the Midwest. From its $100 million in assets, FSM has carved out an allocation of $10 million for impact investments focused on countering climate change. The congregation has so far committed $6.5 million to private climate change-curbing investments such as $500,000 in the Lyme Forest Fund, a private real estate fund that acquires and sustainably manages forestland; $1 million in Clean Fund Holdings, a private debt fund that helps finance energy efficient updates to commercial properties; and $250,000 in M-KOPA, a consumer lending company that pioneered pay-as-you-go solar in East Africa that now reaches over 200,000 households with affordable solar systems.
Exciting Potential -Islamic Finance - Sukuk- Green Bond
The Sukuk - A Green Bond: One of the most interesting alternative approaches to developing investments in domestic capital markets for clean energy, is to expand the role of Islamic finance in equity-based markets in both stock and sukuk (Islamic bond) markets. Sukuk is an Islamic financial certificate, similar to a bond in Western finance that complies with Sharia, Islamic religious law. Sukuk bonds do not pay interest, but instead offer the investor a share of ownership in the project they are supporting. Green projects funded by sukuk include clean energy, mass transit, water conservation, forestry, and low-carbon technologies. Like conventional bonds, green bonds can be issued by a corporate, bank or government entity. Malaysia, as one of the most active Islamic finance centers, is taking the lead to provide a marketplace to fund green sukuk bond projects. The UAE recently issued the first Shariah-compliant bond designed for financing green energy products. This initiative is anticipated to open up the regional Gulf market and allow smaller corporations to pursue “green sukuk” as a means for financing their products and services. The Sukuk market is a fast-growing segment with assets equivalent to about 15 percent of the industry.
Leverage Poverty Reduction Impact Investing Models to Clean Energy
We also see exciting potential in leveraging existing faith-based investing approaches (micro-loans, social enterprise, etc.) that are used for poverty reduction, but recognise further research is needed to explore the potential of FBO impact investments to help bend the arc of energy poverty, which is critical to meeting the 1.5-degree temperature rise ambition articulated in the Paris Agreement and as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). Finally, though still in nascent form there is potential for FBOs to combine funding across faiths on climate solutions investment funds.
Pressure globally is building on institutional investors to assess their risk exposure to fossil-fuel companies, including the risk of tighter regulations, a carbon price, stranded assets and falling demand for fossil-fuels.
The financial risks became clearer to investors in 2013, when the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Grantham Research Institute mapped the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves against the global carbon budget and found that between 60-80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly listed companies are 'un-burnable' and must stay in the ground and will become stranded assets, if the world is to keep temperatures below the two-degree Celsius limit above pre-industrial levels (as defined within the Paris Agreement). Oil reserves carry the greatest financial risk, coal the highest carbon risk, and gas while lower in carbon risk, still faces considerable financial risk.
Over the last five years or so, the price of renewable energy has dropped significantly and fossil fuel-free portfolios are matching or are outperforming standard benchmarks. According to MSCI, which runs global indices used by more than 6,000 pension and hedge funds, investors who divested from fossil fuel companies would have earned an average return of 13% a year since 2010, compared to the 11.8%-a-year return earned by conventional investors.
The Paris Agreement constituted a milestone in the integration of human rights and environmental policies as it is the first international environmental agreement to define explicitly the respect for human rights as a cross-cutting principle for all climate actions. Yet the agreement failed to articulate how this integration should be promoted. In this context, the decisions to be adopted at the COP-22 in Marrakesh should ensure that human rights obligations are effectively reflected in order to promote their integration in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Parties should take steps to ensure that the rights of groups disproportionately impacted by climate change are respected and promoted in the context of climate change and climate action, including the rights of women, indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children and youth, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations. These actions might involve the exchange of relevant expertise and specific actions aimed at protecting these rights. The NDCs constitute the keys to the implementation of domestic actions under the Paris Agreement. Ensuring that these commitments duly integrate human rights and other cross-cutting principles and obligations defined in the Agreement is therefore critical.
Sovereign wealth funds are pools of assets owned and managed by governments to achieve national objectives like balancing intergenerational wealth, funding future liabilities, facilitating fiscal stability (eg. insulating economy from commodity price changes), investing in physical and social infrastructure, and pursuing industrial strategy.
A Divest Invest approach would help meet many of these objectives, ensuring states are better prepared for the rapidly escalating energy transition.
Through these funds as well as public sector pension funds and pension reserve funds which states also control, it is estimated that governments globally control at least US$15 trillion. According to one consultancy firm, Sovereign Wealth Funds are already big investors in infrastructure, investing approximately 3.3% of their wealth in infrastructure.
Many state funds are already shifting their finances. Examples include:
- France’s ERAFP invests 24.7% of the total portfolio in socially responsible equities.
- Sweden’s AP2 invested 9.0% of the total portfolio in green investments and The Netherland’s ABP invested 6.7% of the total fund in green investments.
- The New York City Combined Retirement System (NYCRS), through the Bureau of Economic Development, targets certain investments for sustainable economic growth and development in the City of New York. In 2014, all five of New York City’s pension funds invested a combined amount of over USD 1.4 billion in economically targeted investments (ETIs) such as affordable housing and community development loans. The fund has also committed capital to rehabilitating and creating workforce housing in response to Super Storm Sandy.
- Masdar, the alternative energy company owned by Mubadala Development Co, has two funds dedicated to investing in renewable energy, including solar, hydroelectric and wind worldwide. For instance, the company owns 20% of the London Array Limited in the Thames estuary, opened up in 2013, which represents the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world
- The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund has divested from companies it deems unethical, including coal companies and others causing excessive environmental harm. Olso divested its $8 billion fund, Washington DC has fully divested its $6.4 billion pension fund from coal, oil and gas as has Copenhagen City of $1billion and the local government, Waltham Forest of $1billion
We believe that these actions are consistent with the Santiago Principles and aligns with nations’ pledges to the Paris Agreement.
Adaptation is a cross-cutting and integrated issue. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) definition of adaptation states: “The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.” This requires an integrated approach as regards both built and natural systems – including networked infrastructure (piped water, drains, roads, electricity), services (including public transport, health care, emergency services) and through ecosystem- based adaptation to safeguard water supplies and to buffer expected enhanced erosion and coastal flooding risks caused by rising sea levels and increased storm surges.
Loss and damage is about dealing with the financial impacts of extreme weather events as well as slow-onset events for which adaptation measures are not feasible. However it is not a new issue, it has been on the UNFCCC table since 1991. It was originally proposed by the small island state of Vanuatu as an insurance process to compensate against sea level rise. The Paris Agreement gave breakthrough legal recognition to the concept of loss and damage (there had already been a COP decision about it in 2013), but did not incorporate any mention of liability or compensation, which developing countries advocated but developed nations opposed (as being the countries responsible for climate change).
If we are to have a likely chance to achieve the 1.5C goal, we need to phase out all fossil fuels. However, fossil fuel subsidies are a major obstacle to full decarbonisation and despite the enormous threat climate change poses, countries keep subsidizing fossil fuels. The International Monetary Fund estimated that energy subsidies totalled US$5.3 trillion in 2015, or 6.5 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product. Eliminating subsidies would cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by more than 20 per cent a year, according to the IMF. Another benefit would be to reallocate government revenue, (ie savings from eliminating the subsidies) to invest in health care, renewable energy, mass transit and other public services.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has established an on-line database to increase the availability and transparency of energy subsidy data as an essential step in building momentum for global fossil-fuel subsidy reform. The issue has been under consideration by the G-20 (the world´s 20 largest economies) since 2008 but there has been little action so far.
In the last couple of years, faith based organisations have played a critical role in contributing to civil society's momentum in urging for action on climate change. The importance of faith-based organizations taking a prominent leadership role in influencing policy has become clearer and there has been a noticeable increase in the number of religions at the local, national and international levels addressing climate change as a moral issue, in particular to show solidarity to those most vulnerable. At the international level, there is an Interfaith Liaison Committee with the UNFCCC Secretariat.
At the same time, more governments and the UN are recognising the importance of engaging with religious and faith based organizations in addressing climate change, as they are connected to the grassroots, as well as to leaders.
Listen to a news clipping that highlights the Pope's encyclical and reactions from people like Naomi Klein.
Learn more about the positive impact that faith based organisation are contributing to, as explained by Sister Jayanti of Brahma Kumaris.
2) Faith Statements
Almost every religion has issued a climate change statement.
Some key faith statements on climate change (2014-2016) include:
- The Earth as Witness: International Dharma Teachers’ Statement on Climate Change, 8 January 2014
- Falling in Love with the Earth: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Statement on Climate Change for the United Nations, 2 July 2014
- Sikh Statement on Climate Change, 18 September, 2014
- Interfaith Summit Statement, 21 September 2014
- Catholic Bishops’ Statement in Lima on the Road to Paris, 9 December 2014
- Lambeth Declaration 2015 on Climate Change, 16 June 2015
- Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, 18 June 2015
- The Islamic Climate Change Declaration, 18 August 2015,
- The Statement of Faith and Spiritual Leaders, 20 October 2015
- Appeal to COP 21 Negotiating Parties (Presidents of regional Catholic Bishops´ Conferences), 26 October 2015
- The Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders, 29 October 2015
- The Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, 23 November 2015
- The Interfaith Statement to World Leaders, 18 April 2016
A more detailed list can be found here.
3) Climate Change Petitions
In addition to Statements, last year over 1.8 million people worldwide put their names to a collection of faith-based petitions urging political leaders at the COP21 climate summit to take decisive action to curb global warming and deliver a strong, fair deal that helps poor countries adapt to their changing climate. The petitions were presented to the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and President Hollande on 28th November and 10th December 2015, respectively. See more information here
The Interfaith delegation with President Hollande, 10th December 2015. Credit: Sean Hawkey/WCC
4) Climate Justice Pilgrimages: In 2015, there was 431 faith led pilgrimages for climate justice in Asia, Africa, Europe and USA. Collectively, pilgrims walked hundreds of thousands of miles to raise awareness on the impacts of climate and to urge world leaders to produce a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, December 2015. Click here to see a video of a very catchy and uplifting climate pilgrimage song, Tayo Tayo.
Message for Earth Day, 2016
An expedition of Argentinian explorers (led by Fundación Criteria) is marching towards the North Pole carrying a Laudato Si’ encyclical and a Global Catholic Climate Movement banner calling on world leaders to “PROTECT OUR CLIMATE & OUR COMMON HOME”. - See more here
6) Prayer Vigils: In monasteries, churches, mosques, Guadwara and temples, on streets and town halls, hundreds of candle-lit vigils took place around the world in 2015, demonstrating a display of hope and compassion for the future of our planet. See more information here
Candle light vigil - Philippines January 2015. Credit: Globalissues.org
We all come from different faiths, but we breathe the same air, we share the same trees and we live on the same earth with all species. See below for some interfaith prayers on caring for creation.
Pope Francis' prayer intention for Creation, February 2016: "That we take good care of Creation, a gift freely given, cultivating and protecting for future generations." See video here.
Click here to read a Du'a written by Imam Zaid Shakir - Co-founder of Zaytuna College
- Click here to read Interfaith Prayers for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
- Click here and see below Sea Prayers with the theme of 'Raise Your Voice Not the Sea-Level'
7) Fasts for the Climate: Fasting has been part of faith traditions and justice movements from the Hebrew prophets to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and Cesar Chavez. In 2015, thousands of people from around the world fasted either once a month, or during Lent to stand in solidarity with those already affected by climate change and to tell world leaders that they need to do more to solve the climate crisis. See more here and here.
8) Capacity Building - Training and Education
Education on climate change not only informs us about the science, the risks and impacts of climate change, but protecting the planet is a moral and ethical imperative and taking action can help us improve the world around us and protect the most vulnerable. We all need to reduce our GHG emissions, the use of plastic and paper, water consumption, consumption in general, use more public transport, plant trees, turn off unnecessary lights and put profit before good.
Many faith group organise conferences, workshops, seminars and webinars to help raise awareness on climate change and identify priority actions on climate change for which faith communities can engage in.
9) Interfaith Collaboration
The importance of collaboration among religious groups in addressing challenges of climate change is vital and the Paris Agreement creates a wonderful opportunity to mobilize young leaders of diverse faiths on climate change. We can all benefit from their enthusiasm, as well as connecting with each other and share our resources to deepen our work.
Faith communities have an important role to play in pressing for changes in behaviour to reduce emissions, at every level of society. All of us need to make more eco-friendly choices and change our habits to take better care of our Earth. Reducing emissions is an important responsibility of religious communities.
Many churches, temples, synagogues etc. already have various eco-friendly initiatives in place, but often do not communicate this. There are many inspiring examples of faith organisations reducing emissions in their places of worship. Solar electric panels and solar water heating are common choices for renewable energy being installed in churches, temples, schools, other buildings and in parking areas.
Recent examples include:
1) The Global Catholic Climate Movement launched an Eco-Parish Guide (April 2016) directed at Catholic parishes globally (but can be used for any faith building) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Inspired by Catholic Social Teaching, the Eco-Parish guide offers an active response to Pope Francis’ call for climate change action in his encyclical, Laudato Si’. Many of the steps to reduce emissions are possible to follow without needing too much expertise and come within budget. All of these energy efficient steps can also be implemented in a temple, mosque, synagogue etc. It is important to also involve members of the congregation to help reduce emissions.
2) World’s Largest Community Kitchen at Golden Temple Will Now Serve Organic Langar (March 2016)- the Guru Ramdas Langar Hall at Sri Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple) – one of the world’s largest community kitchens that feeds up to 100,000 people everyday, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for free, is raising the bar even further by serving organic ‘langar’ to their devotees.
Dr Rajwant Singh, founder and president of EcoSikh, a non-profit organisation working to raise awareness about environmental issues and inspiring farmers to focus on producing food through organic means, said that they are now hoping that around 25,000-30,000 gurdwaras in Punjab will follow suit to serve organic langar.
Organic farming systems generally use soil management practices that offer the best opportunities to reduce GHG emissions, build soil organic carbon (SOC) and sequester atmospheric carbon. Among the most promising are: reduction/elimination of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer applications; use of organic fertilizers and cover crops and conservation tillage.
3) In February 2016, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, endorsed a new campaign called the ‘Big Church Switch’ encouraging Christians to choose renewable energy tariffs. The campaign, launched by Christian Aid and Tearfund on Ash Wednesday in the hope to spur hundreds of thousands of Christians to switch energy suppliers.
4) Brahma Kumaris: For almost 20 years, Brahma Kumaris and its sister organization, the World Renewal Spiritual Trust (WRST), a recognized scientific and industrial research organization in India, have been conducting training, research and development in renewable energy technologies. They has done pioneering work in solar energy and sustainable energy, including developing the world's largest solar cooker. 'India One', a 1 MW solar thermal power plant situated near the Brahma Kumaris Shantivan Campus in Abu Road, Rajasthan, India, is due to be completed in 2016. The plant will generate enough heat and power for a campus of 25,000 people and is a milestone for decentralized and clean power generation in India. See video here