Leaders from global faith groups, financial institutions and foundations on Thursday called on sovereign wealth and pension funds to rapidly end trillions in investments related to fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy in line with the Paris Agreement.
The faith leaders met at “Building the Divest Invest Movement with Faiths, Foundations and Finance,” an official side event of the COP22 UN Convention on Climate Change, which began November 7 in Marrakech.
At the event, the COP22 Interfaith Climate Statement was released, with eminent leaders from across faith traditions joining together in a powerful call to action. Signatories include His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; Rev Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and over 220 other faith leaders from around the globe. Other signatories include senior Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist, Indigenous and other spiritual leaders.
The Statement included a set of imperatives designed to speed a transition to a low carbon future in a timeframe consistent with the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The calls included shifting public finances away from fossil fuels, increasing financing to end energy poverty with renewable energy, and ensuring a just transition that protects human rights and vulnerable communities.
Faith leaders urged their communities for more commitments to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy, with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) releasing a major announcement that it would commit to divest its investments from fossil fuels and encourage its two constituent organisations and five national affiliated institutions to do so as well. This marked the world’s first divestment announcement from a Muslim institution.
“According to Islam’s most basic and fundamental teachings, human beings have been uniquely charged with the great responsibility of being Guardians of the Earth. It goes against the mission of the ISNA to invest in fossil fuel companies whose operations and products cause such grave harm to humanity and to Creation,” said Dr. Azhar Azeez, President of the Islamic Society of North America.
The event also included presentations by philanthropic foundation leaders. Mark Sainsbury, Chair of the Mark Leonard Trust, made the financial case for divest invest: “The Paris Agreement, new regulations and technological innovation will see fossil fuel companies lose value and market share to sustainable energy technologies. In fact, it’s happening already. We’re in a sustainable energy revolution and I believe it’s wiser to invest in the low carbon technology of today and tomorrow, not the high carbon technology of yesterday,” he said.
Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund, stated, “Governments have significant influence on global finance with their investment assets. Nations can play a critical and stabilising role in expediting the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to a net-zero carbon economy, mitigating the financial and humanitarian risks of dangerous climate change. Nations’ sovereign wealth funds must be invested consistent with the commitments made in Paris.”
Rev Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, said, “Religious and spiritual communities recognise that the earth is a gift, and that it is our responsibility to protect it. In the face of the climate crisis, we are all required to act and to immediately shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Faith communities are also united in their concern to care for the most vulnerable and are committed to bring distributed, clean power to the 1.1 billion people globally who lack access to electricity by 2030.”
The side event was hosted by GreenFaith and Divest Invest. Greenfaith is an interfaith environmental organisation that inspires, equips, and mobilises diverse faith communities for environmental action. Divest Invest encourages individuals and philanthropic institutions to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.