The Church of England, one of the world’s wealthiest religious institutions, has become the latest high-profile body to join the growing movement divesting from fossil fuels, as it “effectively read the last rites to the coal and tar sands industry.”
The Church has said it will sell investments worth £12 million in firms where more than 10% of revenue comes from two of the most polluting fossil fuels citing its “moral responsibility” to act on environmental issues and to protect those most vulnerable to climate change.
Rev Canon Professor Richard Burridge, deputy chair of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group said:
Climate change is already a reality. The Church has a moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to climate change. This responsibility encompasses not only the Church’s own work to reduce our own carbon footprint, but also how the Church’s money is invested and how we engage with companies on this vital issue.
Officials say the move “marks the start of a process of divestment” and while the church did not go as far as far as some campaigners had urged and divest from all fossil fuels, it vowed to engage with oil and gas companies on climate change.
A church-led resolution on the issue was recently adopted by BP at its annual meeting.
The move has been welcomed by campaigners as “a final warning to the energy industry” that they must “shift investment out of fossil fuels and into renewables or your investors will do so for you.”
Christian Aid’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Christine Allen said:
The message must be heard loud and clear; they have no place in a sustainable future, and ultimately other fossil fuels don’t either… Every pound divested by churches, public institutions or individuals is a sign that we are serious. As the book of Matthew says, ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ We look forward to seeing the Church of England using more fully its influence as both a moral voice and a major investor, to set a vision for a better world.
The Church joins nearly 300 organisations worldwide shunning coal, oil and gas holdings and challenging the social licence of dirty industry.
Last week SOAS, University of London became the capital’s first university to divest, while the Prince of Wales became the latest high-profile figure to join the campaign.
Meanwhile, pressure continues to grow on medical charities, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to shift their money from dirty energy, as a group representing over a million medical students called on the institutions to end their relationship with the dirty energy industry, which represents a bigger threat to global health than tobacco.
The Swedish government is also under pressure to ensure the vast lignite reserves of state-owned Vattenfall stay in the ground, while attention turns to the Norwegian government next week, as campaigners pressure its sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, to end financial support to all fossil fuels.