Embracing renewable energy and abandoning fossil fuels

Embracing renewable energy and abandoning fossil fuels
Living Laudato Si’

In May the Church celebrated the sixth anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home. A weeklong celebration of events took place online on topics ranging from ecological education and spirituality to musical events embracing the arts. One webinar, which the Irish Church can be most proud of, was on ‘Fossil Fuel Divestment’ where 36 Church institutions, from various countries, announced their divestment from the fossil fuel industry. What is divestment? Basically, it is when any institution such as a diocese, a university, or a company, declare that they will remove their financial assets from the fossil fuel industry. For example, funds such as pensions, insurance, or other investments. Essentially it is a commitment to ethical investments.

In 2018, on the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland, the Irish Bishops’ Conference announced the divestment of its shared assets from fossil fuels alongside many religious congregations. During Laudato Si’ Week 2021, six Irish dioceses independently joined this movement: Kildare and Leighlin, Clogher, Cloyne, Elphin, Killala and Limerick. We were delighted to see Bishop Brendan Leahy (Limerick) taking part in the international webinar to celebrate this occasion, alongside Bill McKibben (founder of 350.org) and Cardinal Hollerich (European Bishops Conference). Speaking at the webinar Bishop Leahy noted: “Listening to the cry of humanity, the cry of creation and the cry of young people, it became clear that our diocese could not continue its investments in fossil-fuel related funds. Together, in practical ways, we can console our planet’s cry. And fossil fuel divestment is one such a step.”

Divestment from fossil fuels is a key piece of action in the fight for climate justice. We know that the continued use of fossil fuels is unsustainable and is causing irreparable harm to our fragile world. There is a momentous task ahead of us as a global community as we switch to renewable sources of energy, but it is possible. We have the technologies and often what is lacking is political will.

Divestment is an action that usually takes place at an institutional level but as families we can also play our part. In the home we can look at our energy use and ask, ‘Where does our electricity supply come from?’, ‘Do we use energy saving light bulbs?’, ‘Do we waste energy unnecessarily?’, ‘Can I walk to the shops instead of drive or use public transport?’

There are also bigger contributions we can make such as switching to renewables, and while this might not be accessible for everyone right now, in time these technologies will become cheaper and more grants will be available. The same questions can be put to our parishes, conducting an energy audit of our church buildings. As the theme of Laudato Si’ Week 2021 reminded us, “For we know that things can change” (LS, 13).

Jane Mellett is the Laudato Si’ Officer  with Trócaire