Encyclical anniversary sparks religious call to shift from fossil fuels
Today, on the anniversary of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’, Australian religious leaders are collectively calling for an accelerated shift away from fossil fuels. In an election campaign where global warming has scarcely been mentioned, they are calling for it to be a top priority.
In an open letter which describes the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as a “wake-up call”, senior leaders from the major faith traditions say the approval of new coal mines near the Reef was “irresponsible”. Echoing the same concerns, heads of three Catholic Religious Orders are also announcing their decisions to divest from fossil fuels.
“Neither of the two major Parties are taking seriously enough the need to mitigate climate disruption”, said the Rt. Rev’d Professor Stephen Pickard, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. “The impacts of it are being felt more painfully each year and polls show there is strong electoral support for action. We are left to conclude that the influence of the fossil fuel lobby is a major impediment to the necessary policy changes.”
“Australia needs to transition the economy away from its addiction to fossil fuels to one which is broadly based, innovative and sustainable,” said Bishop Pickard. “We need to declare a moratorium on any new coal, oil or gas mining and expansions of existing mines. It is time to end subsidies and assistance to fossil fuel industries.”
Similarly, the leaders of the Religious Orders are distancing themselves from fossil fuels. The Provincial of the Passionists Father Thomas McDonough said that Pope Francis’ encyclical “crystallised for us the next levels of responsibility we need to take as a Congregation, the urgency for action ever more apparent. So we Trustees of the Passionists took the decision to begin diverting our investments from fossil fuel extractive industries and into renewable energy.”
The Congregation Leader of the Queensland Presentation Sisters, Sr Marlette Black, said that the order had “For many years …. excluded any investment in our portfolio held with companies primarily associated with fossil fuels, uranium mining and environmental degradation.”
“This is a key way we engage in God’s mission, especially at a time when the challenge to address global warming is so urgent,” she said.
The open letter and signatories are available here: http://www.arrcc.org.au/arrcc_open_letter_before_2016_election
More on the divestment decisions is available here: http://www.arrcc.org.au/divestment_announcement_gccm
Available for comment:
Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC)
firstname.lastname@example.org or 0405 293 466
James Lorenz email@example.com or 0400 376 021