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Photo courtesy of Jeanne Moffat


‘All of us have a responsibility to look after Creation.’

By Sheima Benembarek

Jeanne Moffat is a former Greenpeace Canada executive director and a leading member of the Climate Justice Group at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s United

On the role of the church: I think the role that the church plays is to have a very strong faith presence, coming at divestment from a moral and ethical perspective as well as from a justice perspective. Because the church has made so many policy statements since 1988 on global warming and on climate change, it needed, and continues to need, to live into those policy statements in a fundamentally radical way. It’s a logical fit for the church.

On her congregation’s divestment: We divested our funds [from fossil fuels] in the summer of 2014. By the next annual meeting, we had a report from our treasurer that said we were in a better financial position, in terms of the returns on our funds, than we had been prior to divesting. The congregation really celebrated that. The Canadian dollar was falling, and we had divested money and put it into a global equity fund; we did better also partly because of that. We’re still feeling very satisfied with how our funds have been reinvested.

On taking action: When people believe strongly in divesting, they need to raise the issue in their own congregation. We’ve developed an online program to help them do that, because we thought we needed to share our own learning with everybody else.

On the church-wide response:
The United Church, in making the decision [to support divesting from fossil fuel companies] in August 2015, was hearing voices from all across the country saying, “This is a time and a moment in the life of the church when we have to make a very profound stand.” We need to give the church a lot of kudos for that.

The United Church divested its treasury funds from fossil fuels within just four months of that decision. The General Council cannot order the pension fund to divest its money, but that’s where the largest amount of United Church funds are invested. That push has to come from the plan members.

On divesting as a denomination:
It’s very important on a couple of levels. One is because of our theological reasons for divesting, which are that the effects of climate change are falling far more radically on people who have made the least contribution to building up carbon dioxide.

The second would be because we believe so strongly in Creation, in a Creator and in the fact that all of us are part of that web of life. All of us have a responsibility to look after Creation. The continual burning of fossil fuels is one of the major sources of emissions that are leading to worsening climate change.

We needed to send a signal to the fossil fuel industry that it doesn’t have the social licence anymore to carry on, business as usual, looking only at profit. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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