BY No Author | February 7 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

climate change

Church guided to increase eco efforts on divesting fossil fuel

Ahead of COP 26 summit, Catholic commissions highlight protection of ‘common home’ — by Peter Diamond and Ryan McDougall

Scottish Catholic churches and their parishioners have been encouraged to divest from fossil fuels and become eco-congregations as Glasgow gears up to host the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November.

The call comes from Church agencies and climate activists ahead of the annual conference, which consists of 197 countries and will take place from November 9 – 19 at the SEC in Glasgow and is poised to be one of the most important summits of modern times.

In January, Middlesbrough Diocese and Lancaster Diocese in England announced they would begin divestment from fossil fuels.

The announcement came from Operation Noah, a Christian charity committed to tackling climate change. The English dioceses who are divesting from fossil fuels were part of a larger 20 UK churches, religious orders and Christian institutions who joined the growing ‘Fossil Free’ divestment movement, of which 29 per cent are faith institutions.



Church agencies in Scotland have given reasons as to why divesting fossil fuels would help tackle climate change.

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) this week stated the ‘Catholic Church has a vital role to play in making the moral case for action on climate change’ amid a worldwide ‘ecological, humanitarian and moral crisis.’

A spokesperson for SCIAF said: “Global average temperatures are increasing as a result of industrialisation and the burning of fossil fuels. Every day SCIAF sees the impact of this global heating on the poorest of the poor in developing countries.

“This includes increased exposure to heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires. Current levels of warming are also wreaking havoc on weather systems, causing untold suffering to the poorest communities who rely most on the natural environment.”

SCIAF are currently in talks with the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland in preparation for COP 26 to ensure ‘the whole of the Church in Scotland has a clear role in providing a strong moral voice’ on the issue.

They added: “We hope that COP 26 can be an opportunity for reflection and reinvention of ourselves, and that all parts of the Church, including SCIAF, will come together to change hearts and minds as well as policy on climate change.”


Common Home

The charity has also been working to help Catholics put Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ (Care for our Common Home) into practice, by reducing heating, transport and electricity, to praying and reflecting on integral ecology.

The spokesperson added: “Climate change is the defining crisis of our time. This crisis is already affecting the poorest communities all over the word, and at current levels of emissions the impact is only going to increase.

“The success of COP 26 is vital to ensuring a global response to this issue that protects the planet and its people. Catholics in Scotland have a moral duty to engage with this issue, to care for our common home, and to show leaders when they come to Glasgow that we are demanding a political response to the climate emergency.”

The Scottish Bishops’ Conference’s arm for social justice, international peace and human rights has also called upon Scottish parishes to divest from fossil fuels.


Justice and Peace

Justice and Peace Scotland welcomed the news that Middlesbrough and Lancaster Dioceses are phasing out fossil fuels.

A spokesperson said: “We all know that becoming less dependent on fossil fuels is a necessary step in the fight to stop the most damaging effects of climate change and we would encourage all Catholic parishes in Scotland to become eco-congregations and take up membership of Eco-Congregation Scotland.

“In doing so we would be working together as communities of Faith to care for our common home, doing all that we can to protect ourselves and our poorest brothers and sisters across the world from the devastating impact of climate change.

“Scotland has a unique opportunity to show the world that we are doing everything we can to play our part in the solution to the world’s climate crisis when it hosts COP 26 from November 9 – 19 in Glasgow. We can show how transition from fossil fuels to green energy is possible if there is the will to change.”

Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical Christian charity with over 450 member churches from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway, consisting of around 12 per cent of all Scottish churches across denominations.



The organisation provides advice and resources on going carbon neutral at a parish level. Both SCIAF and Justice and Peace Scotland have encouraged more Catholic parishes to become members.

Stephen Curran, Eco-Congregation Scotland’s manager and practicing Catholic, said: “Pope Francis poses a key question for us all at the heart of his Laudato Si’ encyclical: ‘What kind of world do you want to leave for those who come after us?’

“We need to take action now as Christians who care for God’s creation, tackling the climate emergency for our children and future generations. When we welcome thousands from around the world to the COP 26 climate conference on the Clyde, it is important for us to demonstrate that we are taking action and leading by example here in Scotland.

“We all share a unique opportunity in Scotland this year for transformational change, taking practical steps to change our own behaviour by saving energy, cutting waste and helping to reduce carbon emissions.”


Ethical duty

Mr Curran added: “All churches accept a duty to make ethical decisions with any money in their stewardship. In supporting divestment, we can avoid a damaging withdrawal in areas currently reliant on oil and gas industries through a just transition, ensuring that reinvestment and new jobs offer a sustainable low carbon economy for the future.

“Parishes can also become more eco-friendly be registering with us as Eco-Congregations, affirming that environmental issues and caring for God’s creation from part of the Church’s life and mission.

“We support and encourage local parishes in environmental activities, reflecting the interests and capacity of each parish to make a difference. This is a big year for Scotland, let’s work together to make a lasting change for the generations to come.”

In August 2018 the Bishops’ Conference of Ireland stated all of its 26 dioceses would divest from fossil fuels over a period of five years as a direct response to Laudato Si’ on the eve of Pope Francis’ visit for the World Meeting of Families.

A Bishops Conference of Scotland spokesman stated it is not aware of any diocese divesting from fossil fuels, though it ‘may be examined in future.’


‘Beyond dispute’

Meanwhile, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow confronted the topic on Sunday January 26 at the annual Choral Mass held at the University of Glasgow’s Memorial Chapel.

In his homily, he said ‘It is beyond dispute’ that climate change and global warming is relevant to ‘the common good of God’s children.’

He said the response to climate change is ‘not just about reducing emissions or about any other single measure, but about living the bond between care for nature, justice for people, the common good of society and a clear conscience in human beings.’

He continued: “So when COP 26 comes around, the task of the Church will be to encourage the authorities to seek solutions to climate change that avoid proposals that are ideological, superficial or reductionist.’

However, the archbishop warned that just a strategy of reduction would be ineffective.


Archbishop’s hopes

He said: “Here’s my admonition to COP 26: Reductionist solutions will not work. People will rebel against them because they are likely to be inhuman. Forgetfulness of God will lead as it always does to injustice against man and yet more damage to the creation. Only an integral ecology will be a successful ecology. That is what I, as a Christian, hope for from COP 26.”

In St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese, Fr Basil Clark, vicar episcopal for Caritas, Justice and Peace stated Scotland must find ‘positive investments’ in response to climate change, which ‘responds creatively to present needs; alternate energy sources being the most obvious.’

On an archdiocesan level, he stated: “We are at the beginning of a process where we seek to positively engage in bringing change about. The archdiocese has an ethical investment policy but one which might now be out of date given the climate emergency.

“It should also be widely recognised that it is not only investments, but also the actions of the Church’s members that need to change. Past models of living need to be rediscovered where we use and waste less and recycle more.

“In this way individual choice and action drive economic change where divestment isn’t just the right thing to do, but economically the wise thing to do. Our task is to be as persuasive of this as others have been in different parts of the UK and Ireland.”

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