What have faith and Finance got to do with Climate Change?

image Published: Oct 20, 2017

On Thursday 12 October 2017, the Church of Scotland and partners Christian Aid Scotland, Oikocredit UK and Ireland, Eco-Congregation Scotland and ECCR met in St Andrew’s and St Georges West Church in Edinburgh for this year’s Good Money Week Conference.

Sponsored by Oikocredit UK and Ireland, EthicalFutures and Anderson MacPhie Financial Services, and chaired by Dr Katherine Trebeck, Senior Researcher at Oxfam, the event was great example of different organisations working together on a topic that is important to all involved.  ‘What have faith and money got to do with climate change?’ explored the key issues around how we can invest our money ethically to have a positive impact on the climate.

After an inspiring opening talk from Head of Christian Aid Scotland Rev Sally Foster-Fulton on living out of our faith through the use/sharing/justice of our resources, the audience heard from Christian Aid Scotland’s Senior Advocacy and Policy Adviser, Chris Hegarty about Christian Aid’s Big Shift Campaign which seeks to engage major UK banks and major UK asset managers in accelerating the ‘big (and necessary) shift’ away from fossil fuel investments towards sustainable alternatives.

Monica Middleton, National Director for Oikocredit UK and Ireland, spoke on how money can be invested for a positive impact in the developing world, and how we might challenge individuals and organisations to think about their investing activities. This was followed by an introduction on Oikocredit, an international co-operative and social investor that was initiated by the World Council of Churches in 1975.

After the plenary meeting, delegates took part in two of following three 40 minute workshops:

Julian Parrott, Ethical Futures and Kenneth MacPhie, Anderson MacPhie Financial Services led a workshop for individuals to consider their values and how that can be influenced thought their own money followed by a summary of ethical investment options and how this can link to your values and faith, and a session considering climate change issues and how investment managers approach them.

In the Church of Scotland communities and charities workshop, SRT Project Policy Officer Dr Murdo Macdonald was joined by Climate Change Officer Adrian Shaw to look at issues around Fossil Fuel disinvestment and former SRT Project convener, Dr Sinclair Scott talked about his experience implementing a District Energy Scheme in Douglas, Lanarkshire.

John Arnold, ECCR led a workshop on how congregations can get involved and gave an overview of Ethical Money Churches and Gordon Hudson gave an overview of Eco-Congregation Scotland. Dr Robin Green explained how and why Wellington Church in Glasgow invested with Oikocredit and David Cousland told of the impact of such investments on Oikocredit’s social enterprise partners.

After the workshops the delegates came together again to hear a 45 minute panel discussion including a Q & A following by lunch and an opportunity to network.

Our Chair Katherine Trebeck summed up the day: “The ownership of the audience in both their role as drivers of impact on the environment and as agents of change bodes well - we now need to multiply this awareness beyond the people who are at the event.”

Reflecting on the conference Rev Sally Foster-Fulton said: “Never underestimate the power of determined, committed, passionate people. The Good Money Week event saw justice-led people explore the part they can play in investing in a future where all have enough. What do faith and money have to do with climate change? - everything! If we are to protect our planet home, pay more than lip service to the love we profess for each other, then we have to put our money where our morals are and invest in a sustainable future. We have no other world to share. There was such energy and wisdom in the room, solid ideas and bold challenges - If it spills out into intentional action, gathers momentum and brings others along, the change could make all the difference.”

Monica Middleton also shared her thoughts: “Throughout the ages, churches and people of faith have been at the forefront of solving some of the biggest issues of their time.  Today, summarised by the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals, we face very many significant challenges - action on climate change (and its impact), an end to poverty and hunger, gender equality etc.  The role of money and partnerships in helping us overcome these obstacles is paramount and the engagement of people attending the Church of Scotland Good Money Week event was palpable.  From ensuring that our money 'does no harm' by withdrawing from fossil fuel investments (and such like) to actively investing our money in areas that have a measurable positive impact, the room was filled with rich and energetic dialogue. Questions of 'where do I start', 'how do I access and understand investing information' and 'how do I engage my wider community' echoed around the stunning St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, bearing testimony to the role of money being very much top-of-mind within faith-based communities.”

The Church or Scotland Good Money Week working group is encouraging to see a growing level of interest in our in our Good Money Week events and in the numbers of church members who are engaged to start talking about issues in their own congregations.

Look out for us at the Church of Scotland's Heart and Soul 2018 event in May and if you are interested in coming along to next year’s Good Money Week conference in October 2018 please contact us at srtp@churchofscotland.org.uk and we will keep you informed of our plans.

Karen Hunter, SRT Project Coordinator
Church of Scotland

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