16 people stand in a group on a stone staircase outside a large cathedral. They hold placards and some hold a banner reading "vigil for the earth"

Activists call for Clifton Cathedral fossil fuel divestment

This article was amended on Wednesday, March 8 to include a response from Clifton Diocese.

Activists from Christian Climate Action are demanding Clifton Cathedral divest from fossil fuels. 

Members of the Extinction Rebellion offshoot picketed the Cathedral on Sunday morning (March 5) in protest against the diocese’s continued investment in fossil fuels. 

Similar protests took place outside Catholic and Church of England places of worship across the country. 

Isabella Harding, from Clifton Diocese, said: ‘As a Catholic of this Diocese I regret that fossil fuel exploration still has any social licence give (sic) the urgency of immediate divestment urged by the Pope, and believe the open commitment of faith communities to divestment will make fossil fuel investment unacceptable, just like asbestos.’ 

Two women face the camera and hold placards calling for divestment.
Image: Christian Climate Action.

The national picture

In the last five years, many major denominations in the UK have divested, or committed to divest, from fossil fuel companies. 

According to Bright Now, a faith-based campaign to encourage churches to divest, three churches in Bristol have divested or pledged to do so: the Church of England diocese Bristol, Bristol Area Quaker Meeting and Redland Park United Reform Church. 

Nationally, of 22 dioceses in the Catholic Church of England and Wales, 10 have divested from fossil fuels or published plans to do so. Every Catholic diocese in Scotland has already done so.  

Eighteen of 42 Church of England dioceses 18 have divested or plan to, although the Church of England itself still holds investments in fossil fuels, including coal and tar sands. The Church of England has promised to divest by mid-2023 from any fossil fuel companies which are not aligned with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. 

Sarah MacDonald, age 56, a self-employed activist and Christian from Bristol, said: ‘As a Catholic, I was deeply moved and inspired by Pope Francis who says “We must act now, to stop the ecological crisis, for the health of people and our planet”.  

‘It is unbelievable that Catholic Dioceses are continuing to invest in fossil fuels in the light of the words and work of Pope Francis on this matter. There are no excuses. Catholics everywhere need to work together in the cause of Life.’

Following the protest, members of Christian Climate Action attended the service inside the Cathedral and spoke with Cathedral Canon Bosco MacDonald.

What does the Cathedral say?

A spokesperson for Clifton Diocese said: ‘All investments are held at diocesan level and overseen by the Diocesan Investment Committee.

‘The divestment of fossil fuels and responsible and ethical investing are regularly reviewed and considered by the Diocesan Investment Committee in conjunction with the fund managers who administer our portfolio.

‘Though the full divestment of fossil fuels is not included in the investment ethical policy, in practice this is being achieved as part of the ethical approach.

‘The current investment portfolio has holdings in four energy suppliers and three of these trading in solar, wind and clean energy. The remaining energy company which equates to 1% of our portfolio is actively working towards the full provision of clean energy.’

9 people stand with their backs to a stone wall. they each hold placards calling for divestment from fossil fuels.
Protesters entered the Cathedral but did not disrupt the service taking place. Image: Christian Climate Action.

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