Church finances hold untapped potential for fighting climate change

Despite a few successes — like the establishment of a loss and damages fund — the latest United Nations international conference on climate change (COP27) fell short by failing to name the main source of our global problem: the burning of fossil fuels.

Globally, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, and most nations are not on track to reduce their emissions at the necessary pace to avert irreversible climate impacts. New fossil fuel projects are being planned or developed across the globe. Keeping the Paris Agreement objective of 1.5°C maximum planetary warming alive seems like an already lost battle.

Religious institutions were present at the November climate summit in Sharm el-Shiekh, Egypt, to lend their moral influence to climate conversations. But one of their most significant contributions to the cause is more tangible than morality, albeit an avenue of often untapped potential: church finances.

Religions worldwide are incarnated into millions of institutions — churches, temples, congregations, schools, health services and more. These institutions own and manage large plots of land, numerous buildings and significant financial assets. In addition to their spiritual and moral influences, religious institutions’ possessions give them great temporal power.

Over the last six years, hundreds of Catholic institutions have publicly committed to divesting from fossil fuels, and thereby aligned their…

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