By Rosa Die Alcolea

“The work we have ahead of us is gigantic and must be fast,” warned Tomas Insua, Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, in the meeting “The Climate Change Summit and the Care of Our Common Home,” held this morning in the Paul VI Foundation, in Madrid, in the framework of the COP25 taking place in the Spanish capital until December 13.

In an exclusive interview with Zenit, the leader of the Global Catholic Network talked about how the Global Catholic Climate Movement arose, what it proposes and to whom it is directed, reflecting on the works carried out in this Climate Summit, especially on the Paris Agreement, and he enumerated some initiatives to take part in the disinvestment campaign in the oil and financial industry, in search of improvement in the reduction of gases and protection of the environment.

In the meeting on climate change and care of our common home, held on Thursday, December 5, Tomas Insua took part in the round table entitled “Ethical Investments and Climate Change,” together with Carmen Valo, Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences of the Pontifical Comillas University ICADE.

Disinvestment Campaign

In the debate, Insua explained in what the “disinvestment campaign consists, in which already over 1000 institutions worldwide have taken part, among them large pension funds and religious entities.

“Within the financial market, many of our Catholic institutions, which have resources invested in the financial market, are unknowingly throwing more petrol on the fire,” explained Insua. “We know that the Paris Agreement, on establishing the objective to limit the temperature to 1.5 degrees, means necessarily to stop burning fossil fuels: petroleum, carbon, and gas. We know that it is a transition, but the objective is very clear.”

The disinvestment campaign “is a financial boycott of this industry, that is, it is morally unacceptable that they continue exploring and extracting new fossil fuels. So we, as institutions with financial resources, must stop investing ,” stated the Argentine leader.

So far, a total of US$11 trillion have been disinvested, and it’s a tendency that is accelerating. When people begin to understand that they are “throwing petrol on the fire” without realizing it, when they understand this logic and begin to stop giving their resources to this industry, changes begin to happen. We are witnessing in fact that this campaign is having great impact, when they see that it’s a threat to the business model, it’s because this boycott campaign is working. It’s a reason for hope to see how things are beginning to move.”

Here is the interview that Tomas Insua gave to Zenit agency.

* * *

–Q: How was the Global Catholic Climate Movement born?

–Insua: It was born in 2015, shortly before the Pope published Laudato Si’. Knowing that it was coming, rumors already began that the Pope was going to publish an encyclical on this subject, a novelty, the first time of an encyclical on this subject . . . And, in this context, the motivation arose to set up a network, let’s say, that would help the Church to put this message into practice. It was born in January 2015, when the Pope arrived in Manila, the Philippines, with Cardinal Tagle who, let’s say, is our sponsor. The Archdiocese of Manila has been a part of it since day one, and it presented our foundational statement and the rest . . . to the Pope.

We are a network of Catholic institutions; we have 900 Catholic organizations worldwide working together to put Laudato Si’ into practice; we are a reality of the Church.

–Q: What is the objective of this global network?

–Insua: We do three things: all activities to raise awareness, education, including spirituality. In other words, we help the Church to live Laudato Si’, to put Laudato Si’ into practice, and this has, specifically, three dimensions. The first is this: on one hand to make known, to raise awareness of this message, and to introduce the care of our common home in our spirituality, in our life of prayer. For instance, on one hand, the initiative “Time of Creation” in September, which Pope Francis is promoting as a time in which parishes, communities and others reflect on and pray for Creation and put this type of piety into practice.

On the other hand, the second objective is to help the Church to lead by example, to put into practice in our lifestyle, in our institutions starting from parishes, putting solar panel . . . showing that the change can be made, even giving our members tips on sustainability, let’s say, the idea of helping the Church to implement these measures. The third is the whole topic of political impact, which we must influence, put pressure on government because they aren’t doing what they must do, the whole disinvestment campaign . . . they must come to these forums in COP, help the Church to raise her voice on these topics is our third area of work.

–Q: You have pointed out in this presentation that 160 Catholic institutions have already disinvested in the fossil fuel industry. At what level is the Church in this process? Are there still Catholic institutions that must disinvest?

–Insua: There is a long way to go , a very long way to go. There is still very little awareness within the Church, despite our having an encyclical . the only encyclical that Pope Francis has written in these six years of pontificate, and on this topic, but, even so, there is very little awareness of Laudato Si’ in general and of the thematic crisis in particular. So there are positive steps, changes are beginning to happen. 160 institutions have already done so, several Episcopal Conferences, within that group, they have already done so, but it’s not enough. There are very many more who have not yet done anything. I believe the work we have ahead of us is gigantic and it must be fast. That is the challenge. Usually, an encyclical isn’t known, it’s not odd that Laudato Si’ isn’t known, and we aren’t referring only to the laity — also the hierarchy, bishops, priests, etc.

In general it takes time for an encyclical to be digested; however, the difference with this one is that we don’t have time, we can’t wait a couple of decades . . . for them to start slowly talking about it in seminaries; it must be done now. We are living in an emergency situation. And not only this; we are now seeing only the tip of the iceberg, but in the coming decades and years colossal problems are in the offing. So we have to adopt this reality, which is an unheard-of urgency and act in consequence. There is a long way to go yet. We are doing ok but must accelerate exponentially.

–Q: In the framework of this “disinvestment movement,” how can Catholics collaborate?

–Insua: The first step is to join, to work together and to know that we have a work of years and decades ahead of us; we aren’t going to solve it in a month; we aren’t going to solve it in a year. We have much work ahead of us so that, in this regard, we should start with very concrete things to raise awareness in the local communities, be it in the parish, be it in the school, be it in any community in which the audience takes part.

For example, next year there is going to be a great celebration of the encyclical. It will be five years since its publication. There is going to be a great campaign, which will be called The Week of Laudato Si’”, from May 16-24. The Vatican is promoting this great “Week of Laudato Si”’, to put attention on the encyclical, which is not yet known; there must be talks, there must be study groups . . . The Pope has written us a most beautiful document and it must be known.

In so far as moments of the year go, there is also the “Time of Creation”; nice events are beginning to be prepared to raise the community’s awareness on the care of Creation, on how this is a fundamental aspect of our Christina life, of our Christian faith.

As regards the disinvestment campaign, this is more for institutions. Invite institutions to see how they use their financial resources, without realizing that they are investing their money in financial entities that probably — case by case will have to be looked at — very often they are financing the problem without realizing it.

On the Movement’s page there are several resources; there is contact data, I invite them to visit the Movement’s page. They will be able to see the disinvestment campaign; they will be able to get personalized help and other information.

–Q: In his message to the participants in COP25, the Pope expressed his concern in face of the incapacity to respond adequately to this “strong sense of urgency,” and, therefore, to attain the objectives established in the Paris Agreement. How do you think they are working in this summit to achieve these objectives? Are the political and economic leaders preparing some type of final statement or document?

–Insua: The most important — more than statements and the rest –, is that we need to see that each country is taking very concrete action initiatives against climate change to comply with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. This Agreement established that we must limit the global temperature — which is increasing — to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Above this temperature, the scientific community tells us there will be disasters. So considering that what is important now is what each country does to contribute by reducing their emissions. There is not a single one of all the countries that is doing enough to achieve those objectives.

Countries such as the European, Spain and the rest, are heading the list as the worst because they are the ones responsible historically. A country such as Spain has much more responsibility than a country such as Peru or Mozambique because its economic development is very much higher; the level of contamination that issues from this activity is very much higher. So the first ones that must lead by example are the ones that have, on one hand, more historical and actual responsibility in contributing to the problem and, second, they are the ones that have more resources. It’s harder for Peru because it has fewer resources than Spain or Italy.

The delineation of the last details of the Agreement are being finished; however, the most important thing, again, is that the specific countries take measures, and that is something that is going to happen primarily next year, on the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, that is, when they have to present these new plans in 2020.

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