Letter handed to Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace, 17th October 2021

The following letter was hand delivered to Archbishop Justin Welby on 17th October as part of an action to encourage the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels.

The Most Revd Justin Welby

Lambeth Palace 

London SE1 7JU

17th October 2021

Dear Reverend Welby,

SUBJECT: CODE RED FOR HUMANITY – We have run out of time for a cautious approach.

As one of the 13 people from Christian Climate Action arrested in St Paul’s Cathedral on 29th August, I urge you to read this letter owing to the perilous state of God’s creation.

It is time to act now

Urgent and radical action is required – we cannot afford to leave the future of God’s creation to market forces and to rely on fossil fuel companies to provide the solution to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. The recent IPCC report makes the case for immediate action crystal clear, as is the warning from UN secretary general António Guterres: ‘There is no time for delay and no room for excuses. This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet. If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.1.

Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s executive director and one of the world’s foremost energy economists has said: ‘If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.’2.

Divest from fossil fuel companies

Fossil fuel companies and governments are not responding quickly enough to these appeals. Shell has committed to increase gas production by 20 per cent in the next few years.3. In May this year a judgement at The Hague, stated: ‘Shell’s sustainability policy is insufficiently “concrete”, and that the level of emission reductions of Shell and its suppliers and buyers should be brought into line with the Paris Climate Agreement’. 4. In addition, there is strong evidence of aggressive fossil fuel lobbying of government. 5.

While the strategy of engagement with fossil fuel companies may have made sense a few years ago, the science has moved on, indicating that we have less time than we thought. Why wait until 2023 to find out that the fossil fuel companies the Church of England are invested in are not meeting the Paris Agreement goals? Will this not undermine the Church’s moral authority and waste valuable time? While still profiting from continued gas and oil exploration, the Church is not able to speak out against the fossil fuel corporations who are driven by the demands of shareholders, not by the needs of Creation.

Meaningful Sacrifices

In your joint statement with Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew you have made your position clear with regard to the climate emergency by talking about meaningful sacrifices: ‘We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’6.

It is our firm conviction that large fossil fuel corporations are incapable of making ‘meaningful sacrifices’, and it is they and political parties across the globe often funded by them who hold the future of our planet in the balance. We therefore urge you to announce immediate divestment from fossil fuels, and we call upon you to urge world leaders at COP26 to take bold, unpopular decisions and actions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Yours in Faith,

Val King,

on behalf of Christian Climate Action

1. https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20847.doc.htm

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58130705

2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/18/no-new-investment-in-fossil-fuels-demands-top-energy-economist

3. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/feb/11/shell-grow-gas-business-energy-net-zero-carbon

4. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=f16c0ae7-fb78-4aae-a98c-cbd4a8931af0

5. https://www.channel4.com/news/revealed-fossil-fuel-companies-lobby-uk-government-for-gas-compromise-ahead-of-cop26

6. https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/news-and-statements/joint-statement-climate-change-archbishop-canterbury-pope-francis-and

Find out more about the action.

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