AS THE Church and all who care for Creation celebrated Laudato Si’ week, the past few days have indeed been very meaningful. Much has been learned on the ecological crisis we are in today, and we now have an even deeper understanding of the challenges that were brought forth by this encyclical when it was issued by our beloved Pope Francis five years ago.
On Wednesday, I was honored to be among the speakers of a webinar entitled “Online Conversation on Divestment: Invest in the Future”. It gathered leaders and treasurers of religious congregations across the country for a learning session on the importance of the resources of the Church in advancing genuinely sustainable endeavors for our Common Home, and in ending industries and practices that place nature and our people in peril - such as coal and fossil fuels.
There, 28 participants including 2 bishops, some priests, men and women religious and consecrated persons made the pledge to take charge in our country’s transition to clean energy and to advance the coal divestment movement in the Philippines by raising their voices within and without banks and financial institutions where they are stakeholders. The manifesto signed by our dear leaders and treasurers read:
“In the spirit of Laudato Si’, we declare our recognition that divestment from destructive industries, especially coal, is part and parcel of our duties as stewards of Creation and of the assets of the Catholic faithful. We believe that coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and the single biggest contributor to the climate emergency, goes against everything that the Church stands for - most especially the preservation of life and dignity of the human person and the care for God’s Creation.”
Prior to this, over forty faith institutions from 14 countries also made the declaration that they will be divesting assets worth 1.4 billion USD from coal and fossil fuels.
These developments are huge leaps forward for the Church and its people’s bid to truly listen and cater to the cry of the Earth and of the poorest and most vulnerable. But with the worsening state of our climate, and with scientists reporting that we have roughly ten years left to create sweeping changes in the way we run our world - among which ending dependence on coal and fossil fuels is crucial - before global temperature rise reaches even more catastrophic levels, we must be even more ambitious.
This bears all the more weight during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, where we see the terrible consequences of having policies and development paths that fail to prioritize the wellbeing of people and the environment. Today, many financial institutions and banks are keen on advertising their services and projects being made in response to Covid-19 to cater to the needs of the public. While solidarity, including among banks, is very much important today, we must remind the leaders of our banks that these acts would be meaningless if they would continue to provide financial services to coal and other industries that will make our Earth even more sick. Today, we have 28 operating coal-fired power plants. If Philippine banks and other financial institutions continue to support the coal industry, 26 more will be added to our fleet.
This is why next week, the Withdraw From Coal Campaign, led by a network of Church and faith groups and civil society organizations which I am glad to count myself as part of, is launching an initiative to grade Philippine banks who are behind the coal industry through a divestment criteria and scorecard. It is the hope of the organizations behind the campaign to reach out to these banks so that we may all work together in achieving an end to coal and fossil finance and in securing clean energy for all Filipinos.
Let us join hands in withdrawing from coal and investing in our future. To borrow words from the discussion with our dear religious leaders and treasurers, this is a concrete act of love we can do for our Common Home.