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Irish bishops farewell oil and gas investments

By Cian Molloy - 25 August, 2018

Bishop William Crean

The Irish Bishops Conference has announced it will divest completely from fossil fuels and all technologies that rely on exploiting oil and gas resources.

Last April, CatholicIreland.Net broke the news that Trócaire and other members of the Caritas network of Catholic charities were ending their investments in fossil fuel-related equities and  funds.

Now, on the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland, Bishop William Crean of Cloyne has announced that the Irish Bishops’ Conference is following suit and has signed the global Catholic fossil-free pledge.

“In doing so, we are responding directly to Pope Francis’s call in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Sí, on care for our common home, by moving away from fossil fuels without delay,” said Bishop Crean at a multifaith service held in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, last night.

“Our decision was taken at the Summer 2018 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Meeting in Maynooth. It relates to investments held by the Bishops’ Conference at a national level, and involves divestment from the top 200 oil and gas companies by reserves within five years.”

Bishop Crean is also the chairman of Trócaire, so he was especially delighted to make last night’s announcement. “Trócaire is to the fore in terms of tackling the disruption that climate change is already causing to our living environment,” he said.

“Over the past decade we have seen more intense storms, devastating floods, prolonged droughts and higher temperatures. The impact in terms of human suffering to families is devastating. Climate change is already leading to forced migration, separation of families and increased pressure on resources. Girls and women are often in the front line of this added burden.

“Avoiding further climate change and protecting our common home requires a major change in direction, as Pope Francis outlines in Laudato Sí. In particular, it requires a major shift in our energy and investment policies, away from highly polluting fossil fuels towards cleaner renewable energy.”

The decision by the Irish bishops is in line with a growing realisation within the Catholic Church that the use of fossil fuels and their associated carbon footprint is the reason for climate change and global warming. There are a growing number of church organisations ending their investment in fossil fuels, including a number of German-based Catholic banks with €7.5 billion of assets on their balance sheets, and dozens of religious orders and lay movements, including six Irish religious congregations.

At government level, there is also a swing against the use of fossil fuels. India, France, the UK and Norway are planning to ban all petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars within the next few decades.

Last June, Dáil Éireann passed a private members bill which, if passed through the Seanad, will see Ireland become the first country to fully divest its sovereign wealth fund (Irish Strategic Investment Fund) from all fossil fuels, and preclude future such investment by law. In May, the Church of Ireland General Synod made the decision to divest its resources from fossil fuels.

In June, when Pope Francis met with senior oil executives in the Vatican, the Holy Father said in his address, “The Paris Agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground. Civilisation requires energy, but energy must not destroy civilisation.”

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