The Moral Argument to Divest from Fossil Fuels

By Sharon Delgado

Jenny Phillips, Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC with Bill McKibben, United Methodist and Coordinator of 350.org
Jenny Phillips, Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC with Bill McKibben, United Methodist and Coordinator of 350.org

I pray that United Methodist delegates at General Conference will vote to screen fossil fuels out of our investment portfolios.  There are both economic and moral reasons to do so.

The economic argument is that investors in fossil fuels face “stranded assets” and the resulting financial loss as coal, oil, and gas companies are unable to extract and burn all the reserves upon which their projected profits and stock values are based.  United Methodists advocate for strong environmental regulations and a widespread switch to renewable energy sources, but if these changes take place, many of the reserves will be unavailable.  Furthermore, as we have seen with the bankruptcy of Peabody Coal and the recent downgrading of Exxon Mobil stock, it is quite clear that market forces related to fossil fuels are volatile.

Still, the moral argument is strongest:  it is wrong to profit from wrecking the planet.  Ending our addiction to fossil fuels should override arguments based on economic self-interest or the economic interests of our denomination.

As United Methodists and as followers of Christ, we should have no part in investments in fossil fuels, which pollute the atmosphere with the persistent greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, bringing disaster upon people, harming creation, and foreclosing the future.  Rather, we should be investing ourselves and our money in renewable, life-sustaining, and regenerative enterprises.  By doing so, we step away from institutional complicity in destroying creation, affirm our deepest values, and offer a vision of hope for a transformed world.

Go to Fossil Free UMC Facebook Page and Fossil Free UMC Website for more information.

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Make a Lantern for General Conference Climate Vigil

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Hello fellow United Methodists,

Would you like to know what you can do to raise awareness about climate change at the upcoming United Methodist General Conference?  Please consider decorating one or more lanterns for the General Conference Climate Vigil, which will be held on May 12 during General Conference at the Oregon Convention Center Plaza.   The Climate Vigil is being sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.  All United Methodists are invited to create and decorate prayer lanterns for the vigil and either bring them or send them to the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, Attn: Climate Vigil, at P.O. Box 13650, Des Moines, WA 98198). Simple direction can be found on this short Youtube video.  “Together we’ll light the night with our prayers for God’s creation.”

As you probably know, climate legislation will be considered at General Conference that would add greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) to the list of investment screens in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and United Methodist Book of Resolutions.  The California-Nevada Annual Conference passed legislation to that effect in 2015, as did ten other annual conferences.  The General Board of Global Ministries, which works with people on the front lines of climate change, also supports this legislation.  The newly-created Climate Justice Action Network, based in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, is working with Fossil Free UMC to support this legislation.

One more thing you can do to support this effort is to sign up on the right hand side of this page to follow this blog.  If you do, you will get an email each time something is posted here.

The Climate Justice Action Network was created as a project funded by a grant from the Cal-Nevada Advocacy and Justice Committee.  The goal of this project is to build a network of United Methodists and others who are committed to working for climate justice by learning about climate change, responding in faith, sharing resources, and taking coordinated actions.  “A primary strategy of this work is to act in solidarity with other justice campaigns, with other faith and secular communities, and with people in regions and nations most vulnerable to extreme fossil fuel extraction and to a changing climate.”

Bill McKibben’s post on Fossil Free UMC

 

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Here is United Methodist Sunday School teacher and climate activist Bill McKibben’s blog post on the upcoming vote at the upcoming United Methodist General Conference (this May) on screening out investments in coal, oil, and gas companies as a response to climate change.  For other information about the General Conference vote go to Fossil Free UMC.

 

 

The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels 

church divestedIn May, delegates from around the world at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, meeting in Portland, will vote on whether to respond to climate change by establishing an investment screen against fossil fuels.  Fossil Free UMC, a network of United Methodists organizing across annual conferences, is organizing this effort.  This is part of the Go Fossil Free, the global movement to divest from fossil fuels.

This movement challenges the economic system that perpetuates climate change.  The worldwide system of unrestrained free-market capitalism, dominated by global corporations and fueled by money, is based on the view that market forces will sort everything out.

Those of us who are working to get our churches, colleges, and other institutions to divest from fossil fuels are challenging this system by saying, “Money is not the highest value.”  There are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels, but even if there weren’t, “If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”  There are values in life that are more important than money.

It is true that the global economic system is working well for the largest corporate players, those who benefit from subsidies, tax breaks, and preferential treatment.  Coal, oil, and gas corporations are among the most privileged beneficiaries.  But the system certainly isn’t working for the majority of people or for the natural world.  It’s not supposed to.  This system is not designed to preserve the creation, protect communities, or create equity and harmony among human beings.  It’s designed to turn human life and labor and the gifts of the earth into commodities to be bought and sold, and to deliver this wealth upward, to those who design and control the system.   As I say in my book on this subject, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization:  “If we follow the money, we will see that the system is designed for the results it is getting. The architects, rule makers, and enforcers of the global economy are reaping the benefits of what they have designed.”

But as the movement to abandon these fossil fuel producers grows, they lose moral standing.  They are revealed as being not as all-powerful as they would like us to believe.  It becomes clear that their stock prices are based on extracting and burning all the reserves in their portfolios which, as we now know, would destroy the planet.  Political leaders, corporate CEOs, and others at the top will not lead the way to keeping the majority of fossil fuels in the ground, as is required for us to mitigate the harm caused by climate change.  They are driven and constrained by institutional realities.

But (thank you, God) a global movement for climate justice has emerged, led by people in developing nations most vulnerable to climate chaos, by Indigenous people in “sacrifice zones” where extraction is destroying the land, by women who live and struggle to care for children on the front lines of climate change, and by youth who know they have everything to lose by keeping silent.  This is one of the most hopeful movements of our time.

Sharon Delgado

 Order Sharon Delgado’s CD or download a free MP3 version:  Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? 

Fossil Fuels Investment Screen Update

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In the lead up to the United Methodist General Conference in May, the main project of the new Climate Justice Action Network is working with Fossil Free UMC to pass legislation to add coal, petroleum, and natural gas to the list of United Methodist investment screens in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and United Methodist Book of Resolutions. Another Fossil Free UMC resolution would specifically call on the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to screen out coal, petroleum, and natural gas from their investments.Go to the Fossil Free UMC Facebook Page for frequent updates and information.

Find out about the General Conference Climate Vigil, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, that will take place on May 12 during General Conference at the Oregon Convention Center Plaza. All United Methodists are invited to create and decorate prayer lanterns for the vigil and either send them to General Conference with their delegates or attend the vigil themselves. “Together we’ll light the night with our prayers for God’s creation.”

The following eleven Annual Conferences have submitted legislation that corresponds to that proposed by Fossil Free UMC:
• Cal-Nevada Annual Conference
• Cal-Pacific Annual Conference
• Desert Southwest Annual Conference
• Minnesota Annual Conference
• New England Annual Conference
• New York Annual Conference
• Northern Illinois Annual Conference
• Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
• Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
• Susquehanna Annual Conference
• West Ohio Annual Conference

In addition, the General Board of Global Ministries supports this legislation.

The General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits has produced a video opposing Fossil Free UMC legislation and other General Conference legislation calling for investment screens. This has created quite a stir because the video was distributed only to Central Conferences (those outside the United States) and because it directed delegates not to vote for divestment legislation. Read the Reverend Jenny Phillips’ blog, “This Is Not Okay: UM Pension Board Video Crosses the Line,” on the FFUMC website to find out more about this controversy.

Go to the Fossil Free website for background and updates on this campaign. Find resources to start a conversation in your church. Find answers to frequently asked questions. Donate to support the Fossil Free UMC movement. Contact by email at fossilfreeumc@gmail.com.

Sign up to follow this blog to stay updated on Climate Justice Action Network information, events, and actions, or “like” our Climate Justice Action Facebook page.