Pope Francis has a reputation for not mincing his words. He likes to say things very plainly. His latest letter on the state of the climate crisis, Laudate Deum, is a case in point and comes just before a very contentious climate negotiation, COP28, in Dubai.
If his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si' was seen as ground-breaking and urgent – ‘our world is looking more and more like a pile of filth’ – this new letter takes urgency to a whole new level. Reading and reflecting on Laudate Deum, one cannot help be struck by the tone of voice the Pope is speaking in. It is urgent, imploring and also rather impatient – especially with his own church, in particular, in the USA.
It is very clear that Pope Francis is seeking not only to address the climate crisis, which is so obvious for many to see, but the widespread misinformation (and indeed disinformation) which is now putting at risk the efforts of governments, businesses and civil society alike to ramp up climate action.
Having outlined in detail the latest scientific consensus on climate change and what is at stake, he takes direct aim at climate deniers and conspirers within the Catholic Church: 'I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church' (LD, no. 14).
I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church. – Pope Francis, Laudate Deum, 14
While Pope Francis is clearly focused on those who are actively sharing misinformation about the climate, his letter stresses that there is much more that every Christian Church could be doing to increase efforts to tackle the crisis. As Pope Francis also says in Laudate Deum, 'we have scarcely time to prevent even more tragic damage' (LD no. 16).
Whilst there are active climate action groups in all the Christian Churches in the UK, one has to ask whether this is yet commensurate with the urgency and scale of the crisis. In a world where we now seem to be staggering from crisis to crisis, the need to address the climate crisis risks becoming one issue among many. In the face of so much tragedy, it could seem like a hopeless effort.
We have scarcely time to prevent even more tragic damage. – Pope Francis, Laudate Deum, 16
One area where some progress has been made, but much more needs to be done, is in the area of investments. Many pronouncements from the faith leaders, including the Christian churches, point to the need for faiths to step up and demand responsible finance. The UNEP joint faith leaders appeal in 2022 calls upon financial service providers to take urgent and effective action to transition out of fossil fuel financing and to invest in renewable energies and research for climate solutions.
Many churches and faith organisations have taken seriously this responsibility through divestment from fossil fuels, active shareholder engagement around energy transition, as well as supporting more impact investing programmes in the climate justice space. This work has to be celebrated!
However, it is simply not enough. It is not happening quickly enough at a large enough scale. The truth is that the financial industry will not shift until it receives clear signals from the faith investors that they will judge performance not only on financial returns, but on criteria based on science-based climate targets.
Such metrics exist and need to be more widely understood and used by church investors. It requires a commitment on the part of the churches to engage with these tricky issues related to how investments are managed and governed – something that can often seem opaque or best left to the professionals.
The world sings of an infinite Love: how can we fail to care for it? – Pope Francis, Laudate Deum, 65
Two key events in the run-up to COP28
Recognising the great need to bring more focus and urgency to the connection between faith values, investments and climate action – and how it affects frontline communities, FaithInvest is co-sponsoring two key events in the run-up to COP28.
Monday November 6
On Monday 6 November, FaithInvest is organising an event in Rome, which will be livestreamed globally, entitled Anchoring Faith-Consistent Investments in the Experiences of Frontline Communities, in collaboration with a number of prominent Catholic networks.
It will highlight the need to start from the vantage point of those most affected in order to re-balance our investment portfolios.
Tuesday 7 November
The following day, Tuesday 7 November, FaithInvest is partnering with UK-based Operation Noah to host a one-day conference in London on Church Investments in Climate Solutions.
These are two opportunities to bring together those in charge of investing and financial decisions within Christian churches and those concerned with climate justice to examine what more can be done to prevent further climate damage and to invest in a liveable future.
How we invest, at the end of the day, is an expression of our care. And as Pope Francis says in Laudate Deum ‘The world sings of an infinite Love: how can we fail to care for it?” (LD 65)
To find out more about the two events, and to book, click the button below.