How Campaigning to Divest From Fossil Fuels Started with a Field of Hungry Bees

Since starting at 350.org as the new US Digital Divestment Campaigner, I keep thinking of one summer afternoon storm two years ago in Eastern Turkey.

The sky was a sick orange as ominous dust clouds marched across the Anatolian plateaus. Old nomadic beekeepers, with their faces wrinkled from years of squinting at the horizon sighed as they ducked into their white canvass tents, muttering in Turkish “well, there goes our season.”

Within minutes, the clouds were upon us, and brown hail the size of golf balls pummeled the tent. Accompanying the ice orbs, thick dark sludge slid from the sky and landed in deafening plops.

Mud rain fell for the next few hours, covering all of the plants in thick film, wiping out all of the blossoms, and stunting an otherwise promising 2012 honey season. This June mud rain was devastating, but it wasn’t the only inclement weather we would see that summer high on the fragile grasslands of Northeastern Turkey, bordering Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. There would be blizzards in the middle of July and August too that would wipe out whatever flowers remained. (more…)

World Council of Churches divests from fossil fuels and encourages its members to do the same

World Council of Churches Central Committee

Image: www.oikoumene.org

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches, which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week.

The WCC agreed to phase out its own fossil fuel holdings and encourage its members to do the same. The WCC Central Committee is made up of dozens of influential religious leaders from around the world, meaning the decision could resonate far and wide.

350.org founder Bill McKibben said:

“The World Council of Churches reminds us that morality demands thinking as much about the future as about ourselves–and that there’s no threat to the future greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels.

This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further.’

Guillermo Kerber, who coordinates the WCC’s work on care for creation and climate justice explained:

“There was an explicit wish at the Finance Committee to include fossil fuels as one of the sectors where the WCC will not invest in, based on decisions to divest from fossil fuels taken by member churches in different parts of the world.

The general ethical guidelines for investment already included the concern for a sustainable environment, for future generations and CO2 footprint. Adding fossil fuels to the list of sectors where the WCC does not invest in serves to strengthen the governing body’s commitment on climate change as expressed in various sessions of the Central Committee.”

The endorsement is a major victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, which has seen a surge of momentum amongst religious institutions over the last few months.

350.org’s European Divestment Coordinator Tim Ratcliffe said:

The World Council of Churches may be the most important commitment we’ve received yet. It opens the doors for churchgoers around the world to encourage their institutions to live up to their values and divest from companies that are destroying the planet and our future.”

In recent weeks, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in the United States committed to divest,  the University of Dayton in Ohio became the first Catholic institution to join the campaign, and the Church of Sweden have come out in favour of divestment.

At the national level, the United Church of Christ in the US and the Quakers in the UK have also endorsed divestment. Regionally, Lutheran, Quaker, Presbyterian, and Episcopal denominations have also joined the effort in the US.

One of the most powerful advocates for fossil fuel divestment has been Nobel Peace-Prize winner and former South African Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, who called for an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry”.

Tutu’s call to action has been echoed by top UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, who recently urged religious leaders to pull their investments out of fossil fuel companies, as well.

The Divestment Movement Takes on the NYC $160 Billion Retirement Fund

At $160 billion, the NYC Common Retirement Fund is the third largest pension plan in the country, and it’s heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry.

This video illustrates efforts by Fossil Free NYS and local activists to redirect these investments to be more in line with the morals and beliefs of the fire-fighters, teachers, and government employees it represents.

Over 12,000 New Yorkers have already signed the petition calling on Comptroller DiNapoli to divest the NYS Common Retirement Fund. Many statewide organizations have submitted formal divestment resolutions and requests. The Comptroller’s current response is to participate in a yearlong climate risk study — while the CRF continues to invest in a climate crisis that deepens every day.

Climate change is real, it’s here, and it’s hurting New Yorkers. Join the efforts by signing the petition today.

Quakers Move Their Money to Protect the Planet

This guest post is by Paula Kline of Fossil Free Friends.

The Eco-Justice Working Group of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting announced today that more than $2 million of assets have been divested from fossil fuels and reinvested in a new Quaker Green Fund offered by Friends Fiduciary Corporation. By doing so, Philadelphia area Friends join a growing number of religious communities, colleges, towns and states across the country, which are bringing pressure to bear on government and industry to act now to slow climate change. Meetings that have already shifted funds include Central Philadelphia, Lansdowne, Westtown, Lehigh Valley, Old Haverford, and Newtown Monthly Meetings. The question of investing with integrity is actively underway at many others. These Quaker Meetings are urging Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the largest body of Friends in the United States, to divest as well. (more…)

Methodists fail to respond to grassroots call for fossil fuel divestment

Desmond Tutu quoteDespite unprecedented pressure from local churches, the Methodist Conference failed to commit to end its investments in fossil fuels. It announced that it will review its policy, with no decision for at least 12 months. The Methodist Church has investments in fossil fuel companies worth £58 million (2012 figures).

Mark Letcher, Vice-Chair of Christian climate change charity Operation Noah:

“Whilst I welcome the decision to review fossil fuel investments, I am disappointed that the Methodist Church has not decided to grasp the nettle and begin disinvesting from this sector, particularly coal, right away, despite strong calls from its own members.”

“Multimillion pound investments in companies determined to develop new reserves of coal, oil and gas are incompatible with policies to prevent uncontrolled global warming – facts that are recognised by a growing number of Churches in the UK and abroad.”

Just like grassroots Methodists, Operation Noah calls on the Conference to move rapidly to divest from fossil fuels. This year’s Methodist Conference received six resolutions (“memorials”) about investments in fossil fuels from local Circuits or Districts, four of which called for divestment.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and a Methodist:

“I’m confident it’s only a matter of time before the Methodists are in the forefront of this campaign. But since Creation already groans under the weight of our carbon emissions, I hope this time is short indeed.”

Call on the Methodists to ditch their investments in fossil fuels!

While the Methodists fail to respond to the call for fossil fuel divestment, other religious institutions are active leaders tackling the climate crisis and protecting creation. Dozens of churches around the world, from Anglicans in New Zealand to Quakers in the United Kingdom, have divested their holdings. In the United States, the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalists have supported divestment at the national level.

Christian leaders around the world are calling for churches to divest from fossil fuels. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recently called for an “apartheid style boycott” of the fossil fuel industry. Top UN climate chief Christiana Figueres urged religious leaders to pull their investments out of fossil fuel companies, as well.

Operation Noah launched its campaign for church divestment Bright Now in September 2013.

The Methodists’ decision was announced at the Methodist Conference 2014 that took place in Birmingham from June 26 to July 3.