CoE votes to divest from fossil fuels


Source: Operation Noah

The Church of England's governing body, General Synod, has voted almost unanimously to divest by 2023 from oil and gas companies not on track to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2°C.

The amendment, tabled by Canon Giles Goddard of the Church of England's Environmental Working Group, strengthened the original motion of the National Investing Bodies, which stated that the Church would begin in 2020 to divest from companies 'not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy'.

The amendment gives this process a deadline and adds alignment with the Paris Agreement as a condition. The overall motion passed with 347 votes in favour, four against and three abstentions.

General Synod also debated an amendment proposed by the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, which called on the National Investing Bodies to divest from any oil and gas company which was not on an 'unequivocal path to aligning its business investment plan with the Paris Agreement' targets by 2020. The Bishop of Oxford argued that due to the urgency of climate change and the need for global carbon emissions to peak by 2020, divestment should proceed more rapidly. This amendment had been supported by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, as well as by Christian Aid, Tearfund, Operation Noah and USPG.

James Buchanan, who works on Operation Noah's Bright Now divestment campaign, welcomed the outcome of the debate, saying: "We are very glad that General Synod has sent a strong message to oil and gas companies that they are on final notice to fundamentally change their business model, or face divestment.

"While the major oil and gas companies claim to support the Paris Agreement, they continue to pursue business plans taking us on a path to dangerous levels of climate change, with devastating consequences for humanity.

"It is unethical for Churches to profit from companies that are causing the very harm they seek to alleviate. Today, the Church of England has drawn a line in the sand and, given the increasing financial risk of fossil fuel investments, they would be well advised to divest sooner rather than later."

A similar motion passed at the Methodist Conference last year and the Church of Ireland's General Synod voted in favour of full divestment this year.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: "The Catholic Church has a differential portfolio and the investment committee meets regularly to evaluate the ethical make-up of these investments in accordance with the agreed policy of 2004.

"This states that 'by Charity Law, the Trustees must seek to obtain the best financial return possible consistent with commercial prudence. Following the Church's teaching, the Trustees also seek to maintain an ethical investment policy through a process of making value judgements about the products, services and corporate practices of companies as well as their financial efficacy. Their judgements and decisions to invest or disinvest, reflect particularly that tracing which promotes the dignity and sanctity of human life and the positive advancement of society in general.'"

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said: "Pope Francis in Laudato Si' speaks about the need for us to move from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. Added to the Catholic universities, healthcare organisations and religious orders who have already divested, we hope that yet more faith groups will recognise the urgency of moving our money as a means of caring for our common home."

There are now 95 Catholic organisations that have made commitments to divest from fossil fuels. More details about the most recent divestment announcement can be found here: www.thetablet.co.uk/news/8942/more-catholic-institutions-divest-from-fossil-fuels

A full list of the various Catholic organisations that have divested can be found here: https://catholicclimatemovement.global/divest-and-reinvest/leaders/

Catholic organisations in the UK to have made divestment commitments include the Passionists, the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and Newman University. So far no Catholic dioceses in the UK have made divestment commitments.

Operation Noah's recent report, Fossil Free Churches: Accelerating the transition to a brighter, cleaner future, can be found here: http://brightnow.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Bright-Now-Transition-Report-2018-web.pdf

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