Churches have a vital role to play in accelerating the transition to net zero emissions, according to Church Investment in Climate Solutions: Financing a Liveable Future – a new report from Operation Noah relevant to climate campaigners and faith investors. 

The UN estimates that religious institutions manage a combined $3 trillion (£2.5 trillion) of investments globally. Faith institutions invest not only for financial returns, but also to live out their ethics and values. As this new report recognises, some UK faith groups such as the Quakers in Britain, the Church of Ireland, the Diocese of Truro and the Church of England’s Church Commissioners for England are now doing just that by investing in climate solutions.

The report reiterates the finding that if the world were to redirect the $570 billion of annual planned oil and gas investments towards renewables, this could fully finance wind and solar expansion in line with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement – a target that, while still possible, is quickly slipping away as earlier this month the UN warned that the world is currently headed for a catastrophic 2.8°C rise in average temperatures if emissions do not begin to fall rapidly.

Operation Noah’s report identifies opportunities for investment in climate solutions, including:       P p

  • Renewable energy, which is cheaper than fossil fuels, can be deployed more quickly and can close the energy access gap for 770 million people currently without electricity.
  • Energy storage, a key technology for accelerating the decarbonisation of the electricity grid and which is forecast to grow by 15 per cent due to policy developments in the US and EU.
  • Buildings and energy efficiency, from greener materials to the retrofitting of buildings.
  • Public transport and electric vehicles, investment that will be needed to reduce the 15 per cent contribution that transport currently makes to overall greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Land use and sustainable forestry, which the FIIND Impact Foundation identifies as the second most ‘investable’ sector that it analysed, after electricity production.
  • Clean cookstoves, an important solution in tackling global poverty and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as 2.8 billion people still lack access to clean cooking fuels.

Not only are there huge economic benefits to be gained from investing in renewable energy, but a recent University of Oxford study found that switching to renewables could save the world as much as £10.2 trillion by 2050, while every pound spent on renewables generates three times more jobs than fossil fuel investments – something most UK Churches no longer have.

Operation Noah will hold a webinar at 19.00 GMT this evening (22 November) examining the report’s findings. Speakers will include:

  • Lorna Gold Director of Movement Building at FaithInvest and Chair of the Laudato Si’ Movement.
  • John O’Shaughnessy Chief Financial/Investment Officer at the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative.
  • Mike Sturgess Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance in the Church of England Diocese of Truro
  • Stephen Trew Member of the Church of Ireland General Synod and campaigner.
  • James Buchanan Bright Now Campaign Director at Operation Noah and Julia Corcoran Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, both authors of the report

Commenting on the report, the Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said: “For the Global South, the climate crisis is not a future threat but a current lived-catastrophe. What must Churches in wealthier nations do, recognising that these economies have been built on energy sources that have destabilised the climate? Africa suffers from energy poverty and the only way out is through decentralised renewable energy. New fossil fuel projects will trap Africa in decades of debt, stranded assets, environmental pollution and human rights abuses. This timely and practical report gives clear suggestions for how the Church can mobilise its investments to respond to the climate crisis.”

The Rt Rev Hugh Nelson, Bishop of St Germans in the Church of England’s Diocese of Truro, which recently invested £1.75 million in climate solutions, said: “The choices we make about finance and investment both describe and shape the future we want to see. If the Church is serious about cherishing creation and getting to net zero, we need to align our finances to that goal. This report is an important and practical encouragement towards that alignment.”

Martin Palmer, CEO of FaithInvest said: “To achieve the scale of investments necessary to turn the market towards a sustainable world and away from climate and biodiversity disaster, faith institutions have to take up the challenge of putting their money where their mouths are! And Churches in the UK have the resources to do this. Can we hope that it will also increase the actions necessary to help tip the balance? This report is a prophetic witness.”

Anne Schankin, Director at Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative said: “The scale of the climate crisis challenges faith communities to boldly deploy their investable assets in service of people and planet. This excellent report provides an accurate picture of the climate crisis and, with hope, offers solutions and steps on how to begin, along with stories of organisations implementing positive, impactful investing strategies. I hope it will encourage many others to take action, so that together we can courageously build a more just and sustainable future, truly reflective of our faith values.”

* Read the report here.

* More information on the webinar here.

* Source: Operation Noah