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World Council of Churches Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment

World Council of Churches Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment

Geneva, Switzerland — 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, agreeing to phase out its own 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.

“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,” said Bill McKibben, the founder of, a global climate campaign that is supporting the divestment effort. “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.’”

“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,” said Guillermo Kerber, who coordinates the WCC’s work on care for creation and climate justice. “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. 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.

“Scripture tells us that all of the world is God’s precious creation, and our place within it is to care for and respect the health of the whole,” said Serene Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary in the US, which recently committed to divest its entire $108.4 million endowment from fossil fuels. “As a seminary dedicated to social justice, we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.”

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, and Episcopal denominations have also joined the effort in the US. In New Zealand and Australia, the Anglican Church has led the way, with many local dioceses and the entire Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia committing to divestment.

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 recently called for an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry”. [1]

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. [2] Even US President Obama has given a nod to the effort, telling students, “You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms”.

“The World Council of Churches may be the most important commitment we’ve received yet,” said’s European Divestment Coordinator, Tim Ratcliffe. “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.”



[1] The Guardian: Desmond Tutu, “We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet”

[2] Christiana Figueres – St Paul’s Cathedral speech


Source:  11 July, 2014


2 Responses to “World Council of Churches Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment”

  1. Tom Pendergast says:

    I spent most of the day today reading Gazprom materials. Key take-aways on that:

    Russians are really, really beautiful, friendly, open people

    Russia will never revert to communist/progressive/leftist ways. They have benefited a lot from development in their hinterlands e.g. Yamal, Yakutsk, Tomsk, Yakutia and Sakhalin. There are no more gulags. They don’t want to go back.

    Russians are vibrant. They’re not crazy nationalists (well some are). They love progress but they’re not progressives in our sense of the word.

    Gazprom’s pipeline projects are amazing. Their pipe suppliers are mainly Izhara Pipe Plant, Vyksa Steel Works and Severstal; X80 pipe, the same used for the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

    Sakhalin I, operated by Exxon Neftegaz with a 30% ownership. still holds the world record for the deepest borehole (40,000 feet) and the longest laterals (6.2 miles), drilled by, I think, Parker Drilling of New Iberia, LA. Sakhalin II and III are operated by Gazprom together with Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

    Gazprom built the first LNG terminal in Russia on Sakhalin. They plan to build another one on the southern tip of Sakhalin just across from the northern tip of Hokkaido, and another one in Vladisvostok. Also, now under construction is one in Yamal. Another is planned for the Baltic near St. Petersburg.

    And talk about vertical integration, how’s this? Gazprom not only drills for oil and gas, does the processing and refining, transport and marketing but it is also the largest power generator in Russia using combined cycle nat gas plants!

    Finally, what is the impact of the unprecedented drop in the value of the ruble with the double whammy of the drop in oil prices? Well, for starters, Russian steel exports are already surging, putting pressure on China and India especially. And what a great position Russian gas suppliers are in now. It doesn’t really matter to them if Europe doesn’t take their gas. Let the North Americans have that market.

    The markets in the Far East are far bigger and right on their doorstep with the necessary infrastructure already in place — and abuilding! In that respect, Russia has a much better advantage than Qatar, Australia, PNG or Malaysia, let alone Canada or the US.

  2. Tom Pendergast says:

    Fossil fuels: The moral choice
    By Alex Epstein, Published November 14, 2014

    “How does it feel to be the one person disagreeing with over 100,000 people?!” the protester at the People’s Climate March asked me.

    On that Sunday, September 21, when New York City was swarming with protesters chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these fossil fuels have got to go,” I was asking for trouble holding a giant “I Love Fossil Fuels” sign and a book called “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

    I told the protester I was there because I thought someone needed to stand up for the right to improve our lives using coal, oil, and natural gas–the only source of energy that can provide, cheap, reliable energy for 7 billion people.

    It is affordable energy from fossil fuels that runs our farms, that powers our hospitals, that purifies our water, that runs our factories.

    And I told her I wasn’t alone–that most Americans disagreed with the protesters, whose “fossil fuels have got to go” policies would ruin millions of lives in this country and billions around the world.

    As it happens, this past Election Day proved my feeling right. As The Hill reports: “Green groups funneled an unprecedented amount of money into top Senate races that determined control of the upper chamber but fell short.”

    Put differently: America loves fossil fuels. In the 2014 election, more than any in recent memory, candidates competed with one another to take the strongest position in favor of fossil fuels. It was the best illustration yet that Americans see enormous opportunity in, among other things, shale energy technology (fracking), in energy transport (Keystone), and in taking the noose off the coal industry.

    But you wouldn’t know this if you listened to President Obama or the liberal establishment. In fact, they are already out trying to flip the script. They claim that Americans are being shortsighted, that they are supporting unsustainable behavior that will make our planet progressively unlivable.

    President Obama, who has already shown the willingness to dictate energy policy via executive order, announced immediately that he would be undeterred in his quest to reduce fossil fuel use by 80% by 2050 and by 30% by 2030.

    There’s a simple reason Americans have rejected his positions: they have been proven wrong.

    Consider their track record in the last 6 years. In 2008, President Obama campaigned on a platform of ending “the tyranny of oil” and replacing it with promising green companies like now-bankrupt Solyndra—a “true engine of economic growth” that was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” We heard that our greedy consumption was causing a “Peak Oil” disaster. We were told that unless we passed cap and trade, the world would heat up dramatically. None of this happened.

    We have run into oil, not out of it, thanks to human ingenuity. As I document in my new book, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” (Portfolio/Penguin November 2014) every indicator of human well-being is improving, from life expectancy to individual income to nourishment to access to clean water to safety from climate.

    Far from running from these sources of energy, we should be proud of our fossil fuel use. While fossil fuels have risks and side-effects, like anything else, their benefits are indispensable. It is affordable energy from fossil fuels that runs our farms, that powers our hospitals, that purifies our water, that runs our factories.

    Yet it’s often considered out-of-bounds to proudly and publicly support fossil fuels. But if this past election’s results show anything, it shows that Americans are willing to hear the truth about energy use. To Republicans and their supporters, what this means is that the moral high ground is still up for grabs.

    To win it, they will need to articulate positive, specific policies. This takes clarity and courage. For instance, on the EPA, they need to challenge the EPA’s deadly “clean air” regulations that are based not on the objective evidence about what concentrations of power plant emissions are unhealthy, but the dogma that emissions must always be lower — even if that means shutting down absolutely necessary and perfectly healthy coal plants.

    Politicians love to overuse the phrase “teachable moment,” but this is an actual one of those. It’s a time to teach and a time to lead.

    It’s a time to explain to Americans how and why their native instincts served them well this past election cycle. It’s also an opportunity to begin on a new and better path, one in which we do not demonize companies who are creating our energy future.

    Alex Epstein is author of the new book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (Portfolio/Penguin November 2014).

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