FaithInvest Founding President Martin Palmer has contributed an article to a new report on the impact of the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – to funding climate initiatives.
Produced by Faith for our Planet, a global interfaith coalition convened by the Muslim World League to fight climate change, and the Duke Divinity School at Duke University in North Carolina in the US, the report was launched at COP28.
Entitled Accelerating Climate Finance through Religious Philanthropy, the report features articles by 10 contributing authors. They range from Peter Harris, Co-founder and President Emeritus at A Rocha International to Melissa Raphael, Professor Emerita, Jewish Theology, at the University of Gloucestershire, and from Dr Fachruddin Mangunjaya, Chair of the Centre for Islamic Studies at the National University of Indonesia to Martin Palmer, FaithInvest Founding President, whose article was submitted while he was our Chief Executive.
'Over 1,500 faith-based organisations, representing an astounding $40 trillion, have joined the initiative to phase out fossil fuels and invest in clean energy' – Abdullah Antepli
A sacred calling
In the report's opening article, Abdullah Antepli, Associate Professor of Practice at Sanford School of Public Policy and Practice of Interfaith Relations and Duke Divinity School, sets the scene for the rest of the report.
'Collectively, the three Abrahamic traditions represent nearly half of the world’s population,' he says, adding: 'At the heart of these traditions lies a profound principle of environmental stewardship – a sacred calling that recognises humanity's custodial role in safeguarding the Earth and nurturing its natural abundance.'
The movement toward responsible faith-based environmental action has already gained momentum, he says, point out that more than 1,500 faith-based organisations, 'representing an astounding $40 trillion, have joined the initiative to phase out fossil fuels and invest in clean energy', according to a 2023 study.
He highlights three key concepts:
'In Islam, the concept of 'amanah' underscores the sacred trust bestowed upon humanity by the divine, emphasising the responsibility for mankind to act as stewards of the Earth.'
'Within Judaism, the principle of 'bal tashchit' embodies the ethical imperative of avoiding unnecessary waste and destruction', while 'the Jewish tradition reveres nature as a manifestation of God's divine creation'.
'Christianity emphasises the notion of "creation care" as a fundamental expression of faith', while the Bible 'accentuates humanity's privileged role as caretakers of God's creation'.
A not so quiet revolution
In his article, Martin Palmer describes how the perception of faith-based organisations as stakeholders in the planet has changed – both among religious groups themselves and also among secular institutions – in the 40 years he has been involved in the world of faith and the environment.
'For the first time in many cases – faiths are looking at how and where they place their funds and asking whether their money truly reflects their beliefs and values' – Martin Palmer
'For years we have described the growing engagement of faiths around the world in on the ground practical action as 'a quiet revolution', largely ignored by the secular world. But now it is not so quiet! Why?' he asks.
'I'm talking about the growing movement of faith-consistent investing, the work that my organisation, FaithInvest, is involved in. The great shift that is happening is that – for the first time in many cases – faiths are looking at how and where they place their funds and asking whether their money truly reflects their beliefs and values.
'They are turning their great spiritual and moral statements into recognising that they are also great stakeholders and can and should be leading in the field of sustainable, environmental investing.'
At the same time, there's been a huge shift in attitudes towards faiths in the secular world, he says, adding: 'The major global institutions such as the United Nations are realising that religious organisations should be a natural powerhouse for ethical, faith-based and impact investing that contributes to environmental, social and governance or socially responsible investing, and which supports the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals.'
Martin adds: 'All this is great. But ultimately it is when the laity start to ask “so where exactly is our faith’s money invested – and what should I do with my investments?” that change will become inexorable.'
A powerful catalyst for action
In his article, Dr Daniel Vermeer, says philanthropic engagement of the religious community can be a 'powerful catalyst for action' by leveraging their moral authority influencing others to take positive action. This ranges from 'pursuing faithful action, demonstrating stewardship, and directing financial and human resources toward the daunting challenge of system change', he says.
He suggests a range of possible climate investment strategies, from renewable energy and clean transportation, to adaption and resilience strategies such as investing in coastal defences or climate-resilient agriculture, and from reforestation and afforestation to climate finance for developing nations.
'Recent research by Project Drawdown highlights the 100 most promising climate interventions to radically reduce emissions, including shifting to low-carbon electricity sources, increasing industrial efficiency, and ramping up electric vehicle infrastructure,' he says.
'Interestingly, Drawdown also cites solutions that are often overlooked but potentially transformative, including educating girls and women and reducing food waste. This empirically grounded approach can vastly increase the impact and return on investment in climate action and should inform the strategies of religious philanthropists.'
Read the Accelerating Climate Finance through Religious Philanthropy report: