Catholic institutions announce largest ever faith-based fossil fuel divestment

Pope Francis
CC BY 2.0 Casa Rosada

Big Energy is rapidly losing its moral authority to operate.

From the Church of England to the Islamic Society of North America, we've seen many religious groups grappling with the moral issues around investments in fossil fuels.

While each investment has somewhat of a direct economic impact, the significance is usually more about sending a moral signal that we need to change our ways. That said, when the Guardian reports that 40 Catholic institutions have simultaneously announced that they are making significant divestments from fossil fuels, I suspect it hits the oil, gas and coal companies in the pocket book too.

Institutions involved include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, as well as the German Church bank and Catholic relief organization Caritas, which alone is worth €4.5bn.

What will be interesting to watch for is when "moral" divestments like these start getting lost amid simple, financially-motivated shifts in capital. After all, with coal on the ropes and everyone from GM to Nissan getting into electrification, it can't be long before Big Oil's profit projections start to head south.

Add the prospect of electric passenger flights, startlingly low offshore wind costs and viable energy storage, and I find it hard to see why anyone would be placing long term bets on fossil fuels.

But maybe laggard investors are just throwing a Hail Mary...

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