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article imageWorld Council of Churches says 'No' to fossil fuel investments

By Karen Graham     Jul 11, 2014 in Environment
Geneva - The World Council of Churches, representing over half a billion Christians worldwide, announced Thursday their decision to pull all investments from fossil fuel companies. The move is being hailed as a major victory for the earth by climate groups.
This move by the World Council of Churches (WCC) follows in the footsteps of the United Church of Christ, when in making the decision to divest from fossil fuels last year became, according to the Huffington Post, "a first by any religious group and the first by a national body of any kind."
The WCC represents 345 member churches in 150 countries, including the Church of England. Climate change proponents have been cheering the move by religious bodies as a welcome and "major victory." Climate campaigners have been actively calling on institutions and companies around the world to divest from fossil fuels.
In an April story in The Guardian, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that "people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change" and proposed that events sponsored by fossil fuel companies could even be boycotted.
Bill McKibben, the founder of climate campaign group 350.org, said in a statement: "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. 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'."
It is not clear if the divestment move will apply only to the WCC's Central Committee or to all the member churches. Investments in fossil fuel companies would be significant if applied to all the churches under the umbrella of the World Council of Churches. Officially, in a report published on Thursday, the final day of the council's central committee meeting in Geneva, it says: "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. 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'."
While Catholic churches are not members of the WCC, an Australian multi-denominational group sent a letter to Pope Francis in February, urging him to back the campaign in encouraging millions of people around the world to divest in fossil fuel companies. So far, to date, there has been no comment from the Vatican.
The Church of England has also refused to comment, particularly on what impact the divestment move would have on its own investment portfolio. Instead they have set up a "sub-group" that will take advice on climate change and investment. There is no time constraints put on how long the "advise-seeking" will be allowed to continue.
With more and more church groups and religious institutions making the move to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel companies, it has become clear that the world is beginning to notice and more importantly, care about the our planet. As Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day said, "The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard."
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