Catholic institutions including the Australian Jesuits have joined a loose coalition of progressive business and investment funds that are ending investment in or linked to fossil fuels.
The total amount being pulled from fossil fuels by Catholic members of the coalition has not been made public, but it comes on top of an estimated an estimated $5.5 trillion by other investors.
Tomás Insua, executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), says the coalition members hope other institutions with sizeable fossil fuel investments will follow their lead.
“[This] blazes a path that the World Bank and its fellow financial bodies should follow,” he said in a GCCM post on Medium.
“We hope the [the World Bank] leaders notice that the movement for a fossil-free world has grown vastly stronger.”
The Australian Jesuits are the only Australian Catholic institution taking part in the divestment move.
In an online statement, spokesman Father Brian McCoy said the divestment decision reflected wider choices being made by a ‘Reconciliation with Creation’ task force that aims to “reflect on the impact of the choices that we make on the environment and on vulnerable communities around the world”.
The Australian Jesuits have also implemented ‘Responsible Investment Guidelines’ so their funds are “reflect the mission and values of the Province”, the statement said.
“It has been clear for some years that we human beings will need to reconsider our relationship with the land if we are to preserve our world for future generations.
“The more we learn about the interconnectedness of life, the more we see how our decisions and actions can have far-reaching impacts, particularly on vulnerable communities in the poorest parts of the globe.”
Fossil fuel investments have historically been a secure and stable source of income for investors, but the Jesuits are looking for other investment opportunities that are less damaging to the environment, including social bonds, wind turbine farms and solar energy.
“Industries which the Province would consider to be in conflict with its mission and values include tobacco manufacturing; gambling; pornography and prostitution; and manufacture and distribution of armaments,” Father McCoy said.
The divestment comes weeks after Pope Francis strongly criticised climate change deniers, calling them “stupid”.
“Those who deny it [climate change] should go to the scientists and ask them,” the Pope told a press conference on his return from a five-day trip to Colombia, adding: “I am reminded of a phrase from the Old Testament, I think from the Psalm: ‘Man is stupid, he is stubborn and he does not see’.”
The Pope has also been outspoken about the need to tackle climate change on Twitter:
Global action is needed in order to reduce pollution and at the same time promote development in poorer countries.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 16, 2017