September is Creation month. It’s a month to respond to Pope Francis’ call for a new way of being, free from the slavery of consumerism and asks that we take good care of Creation, protecting and preserving it for future generations.
In a special video message, Pope Francis highlights the link between poverty and the fragility of the planet.
In his landmark encyclical of the same name – ‘Laudato Si, Care for our Common Home’, Pope Francis discusses the grave implications of climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our time.
Climate change is having a devastating impact on people in the world’s poorest regions.
Right now, there are 60 million people around the world experiencing extreme food shortages due to drought.
This is just the latest example of the increasingly severe impacts of climate change being visited on the women and men in developing countries, a problem created not by them but primarily by consumption and production in rich countries.
In Laudato Si, Pope Francis highlights the need for lifestyle changes in response to climate change.
Importantly however, he also emphasises the need for structural changes including the urgent, progressive replacement of fossil fuels and other highly polluting technologies that are major contributors to climate change.
Pope Francis’ calls to action are at the heart of Trócaire’s climate justice campaigning. Earlier this year Trócaire joined a movement of more than 500 institutions, with a collective value of around $3.4 trillion across the world committing publically to take their money out of the fossil fuel industry.
This global fossil fuel divestment movement is capturing the imagination of a diverse range of people from student activists to religious congregations to financiers.
In a few short years the movement has become the fastest growing divestment campaign in history.
Divestment has been a tool for social justice campaigning for decades and was a notable strategy employed by people and organisations in efforts to isolate the apartheid regime in South Africa.
A public commitment to move your money out of fossil fuels – the problem, and into just and accessible renewable energy solutions, is a highly symbolic action. It sends a clear message to society and importantly to political decision-makers – that the fossil fuel era must end.
Trócaire’s campaign calls on the Government to divest the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), formerly the National Pension Reserve Fund, from fossil fuels, and to adopt a 100% renewable energy investment policy instead.
Successive Irish Governments have stated deep concern about the urgent threat of climate change, and yet have persistently failed to act in line with Ireland’s international obligations.
Ireland’s Green House Gas emissions per person remain one of the highest among industrialised countries.
To add insult to injury, the Irish government continues to invest public money, via the ISIF, into fossil fuel companies that are directly responsible for the problem.
The irony is that many financial experts are highlighting that fossil fuel companies are performing poorly and are an increasingly risky investment.
This Government must divest the ISIF of all fossil fuel investments as part of a substantive and symbolic step change in climate action in Ireland.
Trócaire itself has committed to divesting its staff pension fund from fossil fuels. Any divestment commitment requires some time and persistence to deliver. In many cases, and indeed in Trócaire’s experience, this involves engaging with those currently managing your funds to ensure they will support you to achieve this.
The efforts needed to deliver on a divestment commitment are no reason to shy away from making one. Indeed, they are part and parcel of the transformative conversations, decisions and actions that are needed to respond to Pope Francis’ call for us to create an entirely new way of being.
In his reflections on climate change, Pope Francis describes the weakness of political responses to date as ‘remarkable’, and the need for pressure from the public and civic institutions in order to challenge the entrenched mindset of short-term gain and results which dominates present-day economics and politics.
Pope Francis describes every act of purchase as ‘a moral – and not simply economic – act’.
As we respond to the Pope’s plea for this Creation Time in various ways, we invite reflection on how we spend and invest our money, and how it is invested on our behalf by our Government.
By pursuing one’s own divestment and or supporting Trócaire’s campaign calling on the Government to divest the ISIF, everyone can play a part in creating a new way of being, one that is both just and sustainable.