29 October 2020, The Tablet

Catholics urged to take climate change more seriously

Catholics urged to take climate change more seriously

Lord Deben pictured here as environment secretary in 1996.
Sean Dempsey/PA

Catholics have been urged to take climate change more seriously and invest ethically by the chair of the UK's committee on climate change.

Lord Deben said he felt that the Catholic Church in England and Wales should be taking “care for creation” more seriously, especially in the lead up to next year’s UN Climate talks in Glasgow.

A Catholic, who as John Selwyn Gummer was a prominent Conservative MP who served as environment secretary, said it was “hugely important for the Catholic community to be very visible and determined about the urgency” of climate change.

Speaking at a webinar on impact investing, attended by around 240 people, he felt that some dioceses are “not doing what they ought do”.

Further, he felt “several bishops have not, I think, read Laudato Si’ and certainly not doing what they ought to do”. He felt that despite the “great leadership” of Pope Francis, “some of our bishops have not understood that the most serious material threat to our world is a moral question”.

Regarding the defence of creation from a faith perspective, he hoped that by the Glasgow COP26 conference, scheduled for November 2021, “not a single organisation or spokesperson of the Catholic Church has not made their position very clear”.

He urged the Church to have “less emphasis on bodies and more on money” and to “look at the effects of investments and make decisions based upon those effects”.

Dr Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ, Director of Religious Life Institute at the University of Cambridge, gave a theological perspective on impact investing. She said: “We need to think of ourselves as a single family dwelling in a common home.” She described ethical investment as “a global imperative and a response to our baptismal vocation”. She pointed out that ethical investment is in the charisms of many religious orders and investment potential should be used for good.

The webinar, the second part of series on Catholic investment for an integral ecology titled Innovation in impact investing, focused on how Catholic organisations can make investments with positive environmental and social impacts. Participants included provincials, bursars and other members of Catholic religious orders, diocesan financial trustees and lay people. The Arundel and Brighton Diocese was represented, which is divesting from fossil fuels after five years of campaigning by justice and peace activists. The first webinar in September had focused on divestment from fossil fuels.

The webinar series was sponsored by Operation Noah, Cafod, Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, the Conference of Religious, the Association of Provincial Bursars, Trocaire, National Justice and Peace Network and Justice and Peace Scotland.

Neil Thorns, director of advocacy and communications at Cafod, spoke about how impact investing has been enabling development outcomes in the global South. He said it “models a different economic future”. He highlighted that the climate emergency hits the poorest hardest, and that “green recovery and how finance is used will have the biggest impact on whether we stay within a 1.5 degree world”. He also called for the Catholic community to play an important advocacy role on the climate crisis with individual MPs and the UK government over the year ahead.

Sr Pat Daly OP, former executive director of Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, provided a case study of how 16 US Dominican religious congregations collaborated to launch the Climate Solutions Fund. She said: “We wanted to start the journey of impact investing for our organisation to serve as a model for others, and make sure that our efforts were going to move the financial sector into sustainable investing.”

Shaun Cooper, head of finance at Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood and based in Guildford, shared how the congregation signed the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge in November 2019, and that this was the “first positive step in our impact investing journey.”. The sisters wanted their charism reflected in all they did, including their investments, and Laudato Si’ spurred them on.

Victoria Carrion, director of membership and partnerships at the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC), invited Catholic dioceses, religious orders and other organisations to consider signing the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge. CIIC was launched in Oct 2019, aiming to grow an investing community that is pursuing impact investing to serve the common good. Monies raised support forestry projects, renewable energy, social housing  and jobs.

James Buchanan, Bright Now campaign manager at Operation Noah, said: “We were delighted to see the interest and engagement in impact investing among Catholic organisations.”  He added: “The clear message from the webinar was that Catholic and other faith institutions have a key role to play in investing in solutions to the climate crisis.”

The first webinar in the series was held on 22 September 2020 and entitled Fossil fuel divestment: Accelerating the clean energy transition. It brought together Catholic organisations to learn more and share experiences of divesting from the fossil fuel industry and supporting a just recovery from Covid-19. Speakers included Fr Augusto Zampini, Co-Secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and Dr Lorna Gold, Vice Chair of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.


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