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Pressure on Church of England as Oxford diocese divests

Oxford Diocese becomes the first in the Church of England to commit to divestment from fossil fuels. Creative Commons: Bill Damon 2014.

Oxford Diocese becomes the first in the Church of England to commit to divestment from fossil fuels. Creative Commons: Bill Damon 2014.

Oxford has became the first Church of England diocese to commit to divestment, this week, calling on the Church of England as a whole to join the growing movement in moving its money out of  dirty fossil fuels.

The Oxford Diocese resolution calls for divestment from coal and tar sands ‘at the earliest opportunity’, from oil within three years and natural gas within five.

The Diocese also pledged to explore re-investment opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

The motion was lead by Reverend Darrell Hannah, a trustee of Operation Noah.

Operation Noah’s Vice-Chair, Mark Letcher, said:

This resolution demonstrates how seriously local churches and dioceses are taking the issue of disinvestment. Following recent commitments from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a national pension fund in Sweden, and the University of Glasgow, the decision today increases the pressure on the Church of England – which still has over £60 million invested in fossil fuel companies – to disinvest.

The move means that the Church of England is facing both top-down and bottom-up pressure to make its own commitment to the divestment movement.

Earlier this year, the World Council of Churches announced its commitment to divest from fossil fuels and urged its members to follow suit.

This week’s decision in Oxford  was made by a vote of 52 in favour, 37 against, and seven abstaining.

It demonstrates how the divestment movement is gaining serious support from members of the Church. The vote was inspired by a similar motion passed earlier this year by Bracknell Deanery .

The Diocese of Oxford joins a number of faith communities pledging to divest, including the Church of Sweden, the British Quakers, the Uniting Church of Australia, and the US United Church of Christ,  as well as numerous institutional investors, private investors and academic institutions.

Ellie Roberts, divestment campaigner for Operation Noah said:

We are delighted that Oxford has joined faith communities from all regions of the globe in refusing to profit from or provide finance to the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel companies continue to base their business strategies on ever greater expansion and use of fossil fuel reserves, despite the fact that the vast majority of existing reserves must remain in the ground to preserve the viability of our planet. By disinvesting, Churches are sending the clearest possible signal to fossil companies that they need to completely rethink their business strategies now.

The resolution follows the Inter-Faith Summit on Climate Change- held this September in New York-  where a statement was signed by 30 religious leaders urging international governments to take action against the negative effects climate change has on the world’s poorest communities.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has also called on governments – particularly those in the industrialised West – to have compassion for ‘today’s poorest and tomorrow’s children’, and take strong action to tackle climate change.

“It is those suffering the most who carry the least historic responsibility for our situation,” he said.

“With actors who have traditionally dragged their feet taking the lead, and with the urgency for action in developing nations beyond any serious doubt, it is now those who have traditionally been more proactive – European nations in particular – who need to step up to the mark.”

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