Last week we all witnessed how a well known climate denier, Donald Trump, was elected to lead the USA in the next four years. For the first 100 days of his administration, he has already pledged to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, to bring back the KXL pipeline, and to lift the moratorium on new coal power plants on public land, and reactivate onshore and offshore fossil fuel development.
These promises challenge what we heard in Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si´, and in the voice of other faith leaders who are being vocal about our need to phase out fossil fuels. They also challenge scientific facts: 2016 is very likely to become the hottest year on record, a record our planet is breaking for the third year in a row.
More and more, faith leaders are connecting the dots between fighting climate change and eradicating poverty, advancing equality and social justice.
As the election results were becoming known, at a side event inside the COP 22 venue, in Marrakesh, leaders from different faith groups, private organizations and civil society announced a Global Interfaith Statement which was drafted by more than thirty faith groups globally and gathered thousands of online signatures in its support. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Rev Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches are among the signatories.
The statement calls on governments of the world to “deliberately turn away from investing in fossil fuels and […] stand together, to call for a collective shift by sovereign wealth funds and public sector pension funds from fossil fuels towards climate solutions.”
Collectively, said funds are worth more than $19 trillion. But the biggest value of this statement is in the moral call it makes, pointing out that “global society’s continued use of fossil fuels and other extractive industries, while knowing the damage they cause, is ethically untenable.”
One day after the interfaith statement was released, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) also announced its own commitment to divest, claiming that the operations and products of the fossil fuel industry cause grave harm to humanity and to Creation, therefore going against ISNA’s service-based mission.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our climate, we are clearly running out of time.
Now is the time for all faith leaders to take a step forward, putting their money where their words are. Donald Trump’s promises can be a real setback for the care of the creation, so this is the best time for all faith leaders to take bold action and show that there is no way back and our institutions must intensify every effort to protect humanity.
Pope Francis is our best hope to lead the Vatican on the path of fossil fuel divestment. That would send a strong message on behalf of millions of people of good will who have taken a stand against the fossil fuel agenda Trump is trying to resuscitate. The message is clear – there is no space nor role for the fossil fuel industry to play in our future.
Our fight to protect the climate is at a crucial moment, and while we are aware of the challenges, we’re not giving up. The entire world needs to look beyond the U.S. elections results and carry on towards ambitious, committed climate action that keep science and justice at its core.