Religious leaders urge banks to stop financing drivers of climate change

The remains of a Lake Sawa pond dried due to climate change-induced drought in Samawa city, Iraq. on May 1, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders joined United Nations officials on Monday (May 9) in urging financial institutions to stop bankrolling activities that are driving climate change, including ending support for new fossil fuel projects.

Leaders of the World Council of Churches, Muslim Council of Elders and New York Board of Rabbis signed onto a statement that said banks, pension funds and insurance firms had a "moral imperative" to not contribute to climate change because of the threat it poses to future generations of life on earth.

"For too long, the financial services sector has enabled the world's fossil fuel addiction," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in support of the statement.

"The scientific and moral imperative is clear: there must be no new investment in fossil fuel expansion, including production, infrastructure and exploration."

The religious groups said they would ask their own financial service providers to stop fossil fuel investments and instead put money in renewable energy.

Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil is the largest source of climate-warming gases. The top UN climate science panel said in a report last month that slashing these emissions immediately and drastically will be the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Environmental advocates in recent years have gone beyond calling out oil firms and other companies directly polluting the climate to also put pressure on their investors and financial institutions that fund them.

While those efforts have helped push shareholders to take action at some oil majors such as Exxon Mobil Corp, shareholder proposals for banks to step up efforts on climate have been put to a vote this year and gained little support.

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