January 14, 2015

Pope urged to divest from fossil fuels ahead of visit to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Numerous organisations have joined together to call on Pope Francis to lead on climate action by committing to divest from fossil fuels ahead of his visit to the Philippines later this week. Local faith groups, theological schools, and development  organisations have come together to urge the Pope to help usher a fossil-fuel free era to address the current climate crisis and help protect vulnerable countries, including the Philippines.

“As Pope Francis prepares to visit the impacted communities from Super Typhoon Haiyan [1], we need him to stand in defence of humankind and the environment and take the lead in actions that will help prevent further climate catastrophes. One such urgent action is full divestment from the fossil fuel industry. We urge the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church to lead the way.” said Lidy Nacpil, 350.org board member and coordinator of Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD).

Fossil fuel divestment has gained traction among faith communities. Just in the last few months we’ve seen, the World Council of Churches [2] decide to phase out its holdings in fossil fuels and encouraged its members to do the same. Also, The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Quakers in the UK, the United Church of Christ in the USA and many more regional and local churches have also joined the divestment movement. [3]

Since taking office, Pope Francis has issued several statements in recognition of scientific findings confirming human responsibility for climatic changes and has called on world leaders to take the necessary actions to address the current climate crisis [4]. Later this year, the Pope is expected to present an encyclical on ecology and man’s relationship with nature to serve as a letter of guidance sent to 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests with the goal of reaching the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. [5]

“We look to Pope Francis to break the political impasse preventing real action on climate change. Twenty years of climate negotiations have left the world at the mercy of political and economic circles looking to protect their vested interests at the expense of mankind and the planet,” said Yeb Saño, Philippine Climate Change Commissioner. “The climate change crisis is a reflection of a profound global moral crisis, and as such Church organizations play an important role in untangling us from this mess. One way this can be done is for the Church to examine not just the purity of its vestments but where it puts its investments,” he added.

Hundreds will gather in Manila for a vigil hours before the arrival of the Pontiff calling for the Vatican to divest [6], adding their voices to tens of thousands worldwide who have signed an existing petition launched by the climate campaign group 350.org [7]. This will be the first of a series of events planned throughout the Pope’s visit all aimed to relay an urgent message for him to join and support the global divestment movement.

“The threatening reality of climate change – which is advancing and will bring pain, suffering and the death of millions of humans and other creatures – has yet to impinge seriously on our church communities worldwide. Political and economic decision makers and church leaders hardly appreciate the extent to which the insatiable demands of our global economy are thoroughly tearing apart the web of life, with disastrous consequences for future generations.” said Fr. John Leydon, from the Missionary Society of St. Columban (MSSC).

Events planned during the Pope’s visit to the Philippines include, a Climate Justice Caravan, which will leave Dolores, Samar this Thursday heading towards Tacloban, where the Pope will visit. The caravan will include hundreds of people from climate impacted communities. A vigil will be held upon their arrival joined by thousands of people. During an organised luncheon with victims from Typhoon Haiyan, the Pope will be hand delivered a letter including a call for the Vatican to divest.

Next month the Fossil Free campaign, which has spearheaded the movement to divest from fossil fuels since it began in 2012, will be holding “Global Divestment Day,” a worldwide day of action beginning on February 13th. [8]



Hoda Baraka, 350.org Global Communications Manager, hoda@350.org, +201001840990

Chuck Baclagon (in Manila), 350 East Asia Digital Campaigner, chuck@350.org, +639272412743



[1] Super Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in world history. More than 4 million people were left displaced and the death toll surpassed 6000. While no single weather event can be tied to global warming, climate change is loading the dice for extreme weather events like Haiyan. The storm’s strength and rapid development were aided by unusually warm ocean waters and warm, moist air (warm air holds more water vapour than cold). Global warming also causes sea level rise, increasing the risk of flooding from storm surges, especially in low-lying areas like much of the Philippines.

[2] The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of over 300 churches, which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries.

[3] A comprehensive list of divestment commitments can be found here.

[4] Article: Pope Francis Makes Biblical Case For Addressing Climate Change: ‘If We Destroy Creation, Creation Will Destroy Us’

[5] Article: Pope preparing major statement on ecology, Vatican says

[6] Photos from the vigil held in Manila on January 14 can be found here starting 9PM local time (GMT+9).

[7] Link to petition calling on the Vatican to divest.

[8] Press Release: Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Launches Global Day of Action