Royal College of Psychiatrists and Jesuits in Britain become latest groups joining growing movement to remove their financial interests in fossil fuels
British psychiatry professionals and the UK's largest Catholic religious order have become the latest groups promising to ditch their financial interests in fossil fuels, as the growing global divestment movement continues to drum-up ever more diverse support.
Jesuits in Britain today announced plans to fully divest its £400m equity portfolio from fossil fuels before the end of the year, by screening out companies which derive more than 10 per cent of their business from coal, oil, and gas.
The Catholic group said it had already removed fossil fuels from around half its investment portfolio, which is managed by three different equity fund managers, in addition to stepping up its efforts as a shareholder on company boards to encourage greener business practices.
Jesuits in Britain is one of 10 institutional shareholders in Barclays which have taken formal action against the bank aimed at pressuring it to phase out its financing of fossil fuel companies.
Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, Fr Damian Howard SJ, said climate change was "the most pressing challenge the world faces", and urged other organisations to follow suit with ambitious action to cut emissions and phase out investments in fossil fuels.
"The decision to divest is principally a response to the clear moral imperative of acting to safeguard our planet for future generations at a time when scientific evidence is mounting that we are facing a grave climate emergency," he said. "What happens to the climate and the environment will have implications for us all."
Paul Chitnis, director of Jesuit Missions - the Catholic organisation's international development arm - also called on the UK government to ensure it takes responds to the "enormous challenge" of climate change and to deliver a successful UN summit in Glasgow later this year.
"COP 26 in Glasgow can be the right moment," he said. "We see the impact of climate change on communities everywhere and it is the poorest, most marginalised people who suffer most. That is why the British public expect the UK to meet its climate commitments, including credible net-zero policies with the public and private investment necessary to achieve them."
It is just the latest religious organisation to take a stand against climate change, with the Church of England having recently adopted a 2030 net zero target, in addition to pledging to align its £12bn of assets around a 2050 net zero pathway.
Separately today, the Royal College of Psychiatrists announced it has removed fossil fuels from its £12m investment portfolio, in addition to positively shifting its policy so that it would now "only invest in companies that follow good environmental, social and governance policies and practices".
A spokesperson for the College told BusinessGreen it had instructed its investment managers "not to invest in any company that generates more than 10 per cent of its revenues from fossil fuels".
It follows a review of the College's investment portfolio which it said concluded that "divesting from fossil fuels, while necessary, does not go far enough".
As such, it said it now plans to actively funnel its investments to support the green economy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in addition to signing up to the Principles for Responsible Investment, a set of voluntary guidelines backed by the UN.
"We are now using our financial assets to invest in innovative, responsible companies making a positive impact in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals," said Calum Mercer, director of finance and operations at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. "This supports the delivery of a better and more sustainable future for everyone. It will also generate long-term income enabling us to do more as a College."
Dr Eleanor Cooke, part of a group of doctors and College members which had campaigned for the organisation to ditch fossil fuels, welcomed today's announcement, which she said was particularly pertinent "given the profound impacts of climate change on mental health".
"We believe it is unethical and unacceptable for any organisation that aims to improve health to be invested in this industry," she added.
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