During a recent meeting of the top governing body of the World Council of Churches (WCC), its Central Committee said “no” to investments in fossil fuels. Prior to this announcement some member churches were already committed to the divestment of fossil fuels, including the United Church of Christ in the United States, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the Church of Sweden.
In April last year, the Uniting Church Synod of New South Wales agreed to divest in fossil fuels and created national news. Other churches around Australia are in talks about how they too can divest. And in May of this year, people from all over Australia withdrew their investments from Australia’s ‘big four’ banks – ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac – choosing to invest their money in more sustainable methods as part of Divestment Day, organised by Market Forces and 350.org.
“We are heartened to see the response to this single line in a longer finance report,” said WCC general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “Care for creation and justice is at the centre of the WCC’s work on climate change.”
“The use of fossil fuels must be significantly reduced and by not investing in those companies we want to show a direction we need to follow as a human family to address climate changes properly,” Olav said. The request to list fossil fuels as a ‘no-go’ area for WCC investments came from younger Central Committee members who recognised the general ethical guidelines for investment that the WCC follows, but wanted to see fossil fuels explicitly mentioned.
“There are strong intergenerational aspects to climate justice, and it is encouraging to see that young people all over the world are starting to take a stand,” said Dr Guillermao Kerber, co-ordinator of the WCC Care for Creation and Climate Justice Program.
While the WCC has a relatively small investment portfolio compared to many other institutions, it takes care in how it handles even these smaller amounts. The WCC’s general ethical guidelines for investment had already included concern for a sustainable environment for future generations and for the CO2 footprint of individuals and organisations. The list of sectors in which the WCC does not invest includes, among other areas, weapons, nuclear energy and genetically modified organisms.
The Uniting Church in Australia is a member church of the World Council of Churches.