The Vatican is joining dozens of governments, cities, academics and Nobel Prize laureates in a global effort to restrict fossil fuel development.
On Thursday, the Vatican announced it was joining the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, an initiative endorsed by major cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Los Angeles and London, over 1,300 organizations, and thousands of individuals squarely focused on phasing out the industry most responsible for climate change.
“The planet already is 1.2 C hotter, yet new fossil fuel projects every day accelerate our race towards the precipice. Enough is enough,” said Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Canadian Jesuit who runs the Vatican’s ecology and development office, in a statement.
“All new exploration and production of coal, oil, and gas must immediately end, and existing production of fossil fuels must be urgently phased out.”
Inspired by nuclear weapon non-proliferation agreements, the treaty aims to prevent fossil fuel expansion and phase out the industry over time. It can be seen as a bottom-up strategy, with individuals, cities and sub-national governments signing on, while the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, led by Costa Rica and Denmark, takes a more top-down approach by signing countries like France and Ireland on to its international alliance.
The decision to endorse the treaty follows the Vatican’s earlier call on Catholic institutions around the world to divest from fossil fuels, and complements new investment guidance approved by Pope Frances, published earlier this week, representing a significant shakeup in how the Vatican manages finances. The new rules require funds managed by Vatican bodies to transfer their assets to its central authority for better oversight and to “contribute to a more just and sustainable world.”
“There is a finite science-based carbon budget to keep heating to no more than 1.5 C, which means most fossil fuels need to remain in the ground,” Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative and steering committee member for the treaty, said in a statement. “This latest endorsement from the Vatican makes it even harder for world leaders to ignore the central role of fossil fuels in the climate catastrophe unfolding around us.”
Earlier this month, 35 faith-based institutions from seven countries announced plans to divest from fossil fuels. Among them were two Canadian Catholic orders: the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada and Our Lady’s Missionaries.
"We want to be part of the collective movement to make choices that make it more possible for all life to flourish,” said Sister Margo Ritchie, the congressional leader of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada in a statement. “It is clear that those living in deepest poverty are most affected by the effects of the climate crisis and the least responsible for creating them.
“This latest endorsement from the Vatican makes it even harder for world leaders to ignore the central role of fossil fuels in the climate catastrophe unfolding around us," says @CampanaleMark
“Quite simply, it is one way of listening to the call of Spirit at this moment in our history."
Next week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Communion, is convening the 15th Lambeth Conference –– a once-per-decade meeting of bishops to discuss issues for the Church and the world at large. This year, the environment sits front and centre.
“Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution threaten both people and planet. Yet, this is still God’s world and God calls us to respond as Easter people: bearers of hope,” reads a guide sent to Anglican bishops ahead of the conference.
“This is a call to the Instruments of Communion, to all bishops and people of our churches, and to world leaders to take bold and decisive action in spiritual and practical ways … to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” it adds.
As a global organization, climate change is seen by the Anglican Communion as something experienced radically differently by its members.
“We are the people facing devastation in disaster-stricken communities. We are all the polluters, especially in wealthy countries. We are people living in poverty and on the margins. We wield power and political influence. We are experiencing loss and damage of our land, homes and livelihoods. We are investors with financial capital. We are first responders to disasters and those who accompany communities on the journey of recovery and resilience.”
By the end of the conference, it’s expected the Anglican Communion will call on leaders of wealthy countries to scale up financing to developing countries to help deal with the impacts of climate change, stop all new fossil fuel expansion, and protect biodiversity.