Published on July 11th, 2018 | by Joshua S Hill0
Church Of England To Divest From Companies Unaligned With Paris Agreement
July 11th, 2018 by Joshua S Hill
The General Synod of the Church of England earlier this week voted near-unanimously in favor of divesting from companies that fail to align themselves with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Meeting this past Sunday, the General Synod of the Church of England agreed to support the goals of the National Investing Bodies (NIB) in tackling climate change. Specifically, the Church will “assess companies’ progress by 2023” as to whether they are aligning themselves with the aims of the Paris Agreement and divest from oil and gas companies deemed to be failing to do so.
The move was made after Canon Giles Goddard of the Church’s Environmental Working Group put forward an amendment asking the National Investing Bodies — the Church of England Pensions Board, the Church Commissioners, and CBF Church of England Funds (managed by CCLA) — “to assess companies’ progress by 2023 and disinvest from any companies not on track to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.” The amendment was approved near-unanimously, with only 4 voting against and 3 abstentions.
“Synod’s vote makes clear that the Church must play a leading role and exercise its moral leadership on the urgent issue of climate change,” said a spokesperson for the Church of England. “Today’s decision, including the amendment by Giles Goddard, will allow us to continue to push for real change in the oil and gas sector and use engagement, our voting rights and rights to file shareholder resolutions to drive the change we want to see.
“As we said during the debate, our active engagement and voting record provide greater leverage and influence than we could ever hope to achieve by acting alone or by forced divestment and simply selling our holdings.”
Importantly, for the Church of England, the agreed-upon amendment adheres to the Church’s preference to remain engaged with companies to spur change and reform, rather than “prematurely” divesting and losing all ability to affect change.
“Unilateral, wholescale disinvestment from fossil fuel producers in 2020, or beginning in 2020 based on assessments in 2020, would leave our strategy, and influence, in tatters,” said David Walker, Bishop of Manchester and Deputy Chair of the Church Commissioners, said during the debate. “It would not spur companies on to change further and faster. It would do the exact opposite; it would take the pressure off them. Now is not the moment to do that.”
“I am sympathetic to Canon Goddard’s amendment because 2023 accords better with our strategy,” Bishop Walker added. “It gives engagement the time it needs. And it is aligned with the timeframe for Climate Action 100+, a global collaborative engagement initiative by investors with $30 trillion in assets, in which the national investing bodies are leading on several key companies including Shell & Exxon.”
In response to the Church of England’s decision, groups such as Christian Aid and 350.org praised the move but warned of the potential threats to the Church’s preference of remaining engaged.
“Today’s vote by the Church of England Synod shows the bell is tolling for the fossil fuel era,” said Christian Aid’s Head of UK Advocacy, Tom Viita. “As Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said last week, climate change is the great existential threat of our times, and today the church has backed up his words with a clear decision to pull its investments from fossil fuel companies that don’t quickly align themselves with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
“We are pleased that this resolution has been carried so convincingly, giving a firmer basis than previously for holding the National Investing Bodies to account, while allowing them time to demonstrate the hoped-for progress of their engagement strategy.”
“The announcement by the Church of England is very good news, and it’s in line with the tidal wave of commitments amongst religious groups divesting from the fossil fuel industry,” added May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org.
“The decision adds to the real and growing pressure on fossil fuel companies.
However, waiting until 2023 would mean another five years of money still invested in fossil fuels which could be instead used to support renewable energy and low-carbon projects. The fossil fuel industry had plenty of opportunities to redeem itself; it never did. They need to be stopped now.”
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