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Encyclical anniversary sparks religious call to shift from fossil fuels

Religious leaders say tackling global warming should be a top priority in the federal election campaign.

June 16 2016On the anniversary of the release of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, Australian religious leaders are calling for an accelerated shift away from fossil fuels.

Global warming has scarcely been mentioned in the current federal election campaign, the religious leaders say, but tackling it needs to be made a top priority.

“Neither of the two major parties is taking seriously enough the need to mitigate climate disruption,” said Anglican bishop 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.”

An open letter released today by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) describes the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as a “wake-up call”. Senior leaders from the major faith traditions are calling for more robust policies to transition Australia much more rapidly away from fossil fuels, saying that the approval of new coal mines near the Reef was “irresponsible”.

“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.”

Australian Catholic organisations divest from fossil fuels

Four Australian Catholic organisations have announced that they are selling their investments in coal, oil and gas companies, with more to follow as the moral case against the fossil fuel industry continues to build.

The decision by the four groups (the Marist Sisters Australia, the Presentation Congregation Queensland, the Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga, and the Passionists – Holy Spirit Province Australia) to abandon fossil fuels comes during Laudato Si' Week, a major international celebration of the one year anniversary of the Pope's encyclical release.

More Australian Catholic organisations are expected to divest by the Feast of St Francis, in October.

“We recognise our need to engage in respectful and transformative relationships with the whole community of life. For many years Queensland Presentation Sisters have excluded any investment in our portfolio held with companies primarily associated with fossil fuels, uranium mining and environmental degradation. This is a key part of the way we engage in God’s mission, especially at a time when the challenge to address global warming is so urgent,” said Sister Marlette Black PBVM, Congregational Leader of the Presentation Congregation Queensland.

Father Thomas McDonough CP, Provincial of the Passionists – Holy Spirit Province Australia, NZ, PNG, said: “For some years now our Passionist Congregation has been aware of the need for our communities and ministries to be far more ecologically responsible. Pope Francis, in his Laudato Si, crystallised for us the level 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. We believe the Gospel asks no less of us.”

The open letter and signatories are available at http://www.arrcc.org.au/arrcc_open_letter_before_2016_election  

More on the divestment decisions is available at http://www.arrcc.org.au/divestment_announcement_gccm