Season of Creation marked by global shift from fossil fuels
Major Christian Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican organisations came together between September 1 (World Day of Prayer for Creation) and October 4 to observe the Season of Creation. Together, they called on the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide to pray and take action to care for the Earth.
To celebrate the culmination of the month-long Season of Creation this week, Catholic institutions and communities from around the world (including Australia) announced their largest joint announcement about divesting from fossil fuels.
The Catholic communities which have committed to switching management of their finances away from fossil fuel extraction include: The Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea; The Jesuits in English Canada; the Federation of Christian Organisations for the International Voluntary Service (FOCSIV) in Italy; SSM Health in the United States; the Diocese of the Holy Spirit of Umuarama in the Brazilian state of Paraná; and, the Missionary Society of St. Columban, based in Hong Kong.
Commitments range from the US healthcare institution SSM choosing to divest from coal, to FOCSIV redirecting divested funds into clean, renewable energy investments. This major movement of fossil fuel divestment was acknowledged during the presentation of Pope Francis’s message on the World Day of Prayer for Creation. President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, pointed out that Pope Francis suggests “social pressure — including from boycotting certain products — can force businesses to consider their environmental footprint and patterns of production. The same logic animates the fossil fuel divestment movement.”
The urgent need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure was highlighted by a recent report which revealed the possible impact of carbon emissions. From the oil, gas and coal in the world’s operating fields and mines, potential carbon emissions would increase our planet’s temperature beyond 2°C by the end of this century. Even if coal usage was stopped, the reserves in oil and gas fields alone would cause warming beyond 1.5ºC.
“The Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea has made the commitment to work towards divestment of investments that are at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety and local communities,” said Sister Marlette Black, President of the Presentation Society of Australia and Papua New Guinea. “Presentation Sisters in Australia and Papua New Guinea believe that the healing of the planet will only come about with care for Earth and the whole community of life.”
The campaign to divest from fossil fuels is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history, according to a report by the University of Oxford. Almost 600 institutions worth more than $3.4 trillion globally have announced divestment commitments.
This is the latest major announcement involving faith communities and climate change. Last month, more than 3,000 UK churches announced they had switched (or planned to switch) to green energy in 2016 and, just last week, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa passed a motion during its provincial Synod to divest from fossil fuels.