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Maine Faith Groups Ahead of Curve on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Faith groups in Maine were among the first to heed the call to divest from fossil fuels. (Church of the Covenant)
Faith groups in Maine were among the first to heed the call to divest from fossil fuels. (Church of the Covenant)
May 22, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine -- As world leaders prepare to meet at this week's G-7 summit in Italy, nine Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the U.S. and Europe have committed to divesting their holdings in coal, natural gas and oil companies within the next five years.

The Reverend Jane Field is executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, made up of nine denominations including the Roman Catholic Church of Portland. She said the council decided about five years ago that it needed to end its investment in fossil fuels.

"So, it fits with our portfolio of programs and advocacy work to ensure that our investments were not contributing to the degradation of the natural environment, or creation,” Field said.

Trump, who will attend the G-7 meetings, has taken steps to block the Clean Power Plan - the primary U.S. strategy for reaching the climate goals set in Paris. Trump has not made clear whether his administration will uphold America's commitments to reduce carbon emissions. In the past, the President has called climate change "a hoax."

Yossi Cadan, a senior organizer with the group, said Pope Francis' recent encyclical highlighting the need to act on climate is starting to show real results.

"Because of the sheer size of the Catholic church and its political influence, that was definitely a milestone for - not just on divestment, divestment is part of that - but on the work on climate change,” Cadan said.

Last week, the CEO of fossil fuel giant Dutch Shell told NPR that climate change is real, and said a worldwide transition to clean energy will be necessary to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.

According to a report by the University of Oxford, nearly 600 institutions, worth more than $3.4 trillion dollars, have made divestment commitments. Cadan said that 23 percent of those are from religious institutions.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME