In an unprecedented move, on Thursday (18 June) the Vatican issued its first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines.
The document is the fruit of a collaboration across all Vatican departments and suggests concrete ways for the Church to implement Pope Francis’ landmark ‘green’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.
The document, Journey for the Care of the Common Home, notes that this is a ‘historical moment marked by urgent challenges, but also very stimulating in order to create a new civilisation.’
It calls on all Catholic institutions to ‘avoid supporting companies that harm human or social ecology and environmental ecology (for example, fossil fuels)’.
‘Laudato Si’ already demands that ‘highly polluting fossil fuels need to be progressively replaced without delay’.
‘The announcement today is a strong statement that the Vatican is supporting the call of many institutions, companies, the youth and other groups who already showed that the only way to rebuild our societies and economies is through a Just Recovery that centres people’s needs and not major polluters corporate interests, which led us to the global climate crisis we face now.
‘Faith groups continue to lead the way and clearly indicate to the rest of the world that any future investments or stimulus funds must exclude fossil fuels and yield long-term structural emissions reductions.
‘We must urge all sectors of society to use this opportunity to accelerate the transition needed towards low- and zero-carbon.’
Global finance campaign manager at 350.org
This is the first-ever endorsement of the divestment movement to come from the Vatican, and it comes on the heels of the largest-ever announcement of divestment by faith institutions.
In May, 42 institutions in 14 countries announced their commitment to drop fossil fuels – the largest-ever joint announcement of divestment from fossil fuels from faith institutions.
The multi-faith announcement came from institutions in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Myanmar, Spain, the UK, and the United States.
The group includes the Jesuits in Britain, which divested its £400 million ($517.5 million) equity portfolio from fossil fuels in February 2020, plus Methodist, Anglican, Catholic and Buddhist institutions, among others.
Mark Campanale, founder and executive chair of Carbon Tracker, an independent think tank that analyses the financial impact of an energy transition, said, ‘A comprehensive economic recovery means taking the long view, investing now in infrastructure that will serve communities for years to come. Fossil fuels do not have a place in the long-term health of humanity. Faith institutions’ commitment to create a better world is leadership that governments should follow.’
An Operation Noah report, published in May 2020, showed that none of the major oil companies are compliant with the Paris agreement targets.
‘The Vatican’s call for divestment is a breath of hope in times when faith is more needed than ever. It is also one of the handful of great moments in this decade-long campaign. It is a powerful statement that attempting to profit off the destruction of the planet is plainly and simply immoral and unethical.’
Author and founder of 350.org
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, said in response to the report, ‘The current health crisis has highlighted as never before the need for coherent international action in the face of global threat. Can we learn the lesson and apply it to the global threat of climate change? To do so means taking practical and effective steps to reduce our lethal dependence on fossil fuels.’