Bishops to divest from fossil fuels

Bishops to divest from fossil fuels

Bishops line up to receive communion during Mass on the last day of their plenary assembly at the Sta. Maria Goretti Parish Church in Manila July 8. ROY LAGARDE

By Roy Lagarde

July 10, 2019

Manila, Philippines

The country’s Catholic bishops have agreed to divest from “dirty energy” sources such as coal-fired power plants.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is the world’s most recent church institution to declare it will divest from fossil fuel.

The decision was reached over the weekend as the bishops gather for their plenary assembly in Manila.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary, said the dioceses would instead place its money in renewable sources of energy.

“A milestone for the Church ecology advocacy!” Gariguez said.

According to him, the divestment is part in their 10 action points for Laudato Si’ campaign that the CBCP adopted.

Before the decision, he said that the Vatican has asked about what the Philippine church has been doing in response to the landmark encyclical.

Fr. Gariguez was among the speakers on the environment during the bishops’ meeting on July 7.

“I told the bishops that we need to come up with a pastoral letter but it should be accompanied by action points because we need to walk the talk,” he said.

“I challenged the body, we need to really find ways on how to live the Laudato Si’ as a Church,” Fr. Gariguez added.

He, however, said that divestment will take some time to accomplish because of the legal procedures that must be observed.

While only few dioceses have investments in coal, climate justice advocates see the need for a “collective action” among bishops to address the problem.

At least four bishops whose dioceses have investments in coal have already vowed to divest their funds immediately, according to Catholic lay-led Living Laudato Sí Philippines, which has been engaging with dioceses in the campaign.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said that church finances must not be invested at the expense of the environment.

And with the “climate emergency,” he stressed the need to respond with utmost urgency.

He also revealed that the bishops’ conference would soon release a pastoral letter on ecology with “concrete action points”.

The CBCP is the fourth conference to announce plans to divest, joining the bishops of Belgium, Ireland and Australia in the global campaign.

In recent months, over 120 Catholic institutions around the world have already stopped on investing in companies that produce destructive energy sources.

Church eyes divesting from ‘dirty energy’, mining

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos (center) leads various civil society organizations in launching an electoral campaign for “clean and affordable electricity” in Manila, March 7. CBCP NEWS

Talks are underway for Catholic dioceses to withdraw from “dirty energy” holdings as a means of fighting climate change, a bishop said.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said there needs for a “collective action” among bishops to address the problem.

He said the plan underscored that the environmental issue is increasingly seen by church leaders as a deeply moral concern.

“We can’t clearly stand for renewable energy if our deposits are invested in such industries,” Alminaza said.

Asked if some church investments in mining are included, he said that “the general moral guideline is for any business that are against our core values and principles”.

“So, for instance, we collectively decide to pull out from a particular bank, it will have an impact,” Alminaza said.

According to him, initial discussions on divestment started during the bishops’ plenary meeting last January while “we are also dialoguing with each other”.

“We are waiting for the right time then we would come out with a pastoral letter as a body,” he said, assuring that bishops “are united in principles”.

For its part, Caritas Philippines called on Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) to disclose where it invested their funds.

And should there be investments to dirty energy such as coal and extractive industries, it urged BPI “to right away divest them to support the renewable energy sector”.

Based on the financial disclosures in the Global Coal Exit List, BPI is among the top banks providing support through loans and underwritings to the country’s biggest coal developers.

Caritas executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez said the church is now being challenged to fully commit to their advocacy for a coal-free Philippines.

“And the better way to do that then is to ensure that our money deposited to financial institutions are not used to fund dirty energy and other extractives,” he said.

The church officials made the statement during the launching of a campaign for clean and affordable electricity for consumers through key policy reforms.

The “Malinis at Murang Kuryente” campaign will cascade through all dioceses and parishes, schools and religious groups to put pressure to financial institutions to divest from coal and invest to clean energy.

Gariguez stressed that Caritas’ development funds are raised to uplift the lives and dignity of the poor and the vulnerable.

“Having them invested in coal and other extractive industries is one way of killing the people we are mandated to protect. We cannot allow that from happening,” he added.