Religious leaders urge banks to stop financing drivers of climate change

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Men walk through an almost dry river bed of Yamuna after searching for recyclable material on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, April 30, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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May 9 (Reuters) - Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders joined United Nations officials on Monday 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.

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"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 U.N. 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. read more

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 (XOM.N), shareholder proposals for banks to step up efforts on climate have been put to a vote this year and gained little support. read more

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Reporting by Jake Spring Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Thomson Reuters

Global Climate & Environment Correspondent, based in Brazil. Interests include science, forests, geoengineering, cryosphere, climate policy/diplomacy, accountability and investigative reporting. His work on environmental destruction under Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro received awards from Covering Climate Now and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Previously based in China, he is fluent in Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese.