29

Jun

2017

Methodist Church takes a step closer to divestment

 

The annual Methodist Conference has this week voted for the principle of withdrawing investments from fossil fuel companies whose plans are at odds with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In Birmingham on Tuesday 27 June, members of the Conference voted by 127 to 118 to support a Notice of Motion which requested the Church’s Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI) to report on the issue to the Conference in 2018.

This would mean that ‘if any [fossil fuel] company in which the Church invests has not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees, there would be a recommendation that the Church disinvest from such a company by the 2020 Conference’.

Methodist Conference votes on the Notice of Motion calling for divestment (Photo credit: Georgia Harrison)

The Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church manages investments of £1.2bn for the Church, which includes £38.2m invested in BP and Shell alone.

In 2015 the Methodist Church announced a new investment policy on climate change, which included divestment from companies involved in the extraction of coal and tar sands. At the time it opted for a policy of ‘engagement’ with oil and gas companies, including putting forward resolutions at shareholder meetings. However, engagement has not yet demonstrated any significant change in the business operations of companies such as BP and Shell, which are currently pursuing business strategies leading towards a global average temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius.

Three Methodist Districts (Birmingham, Bristol and Scotland) and two Circuits (Central Scotland and Stratford & Evesham) had passed memorials calling on the Methodist Church to divest from fossil fuels, which went forward for consideration at Methodist Conference.

At a fringe event organised by Operation Noah and the Methodist Tax Justice Network on Monday, Rev Dr David Pickering (Moderator of the United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland) called on churches to give ‘prophetic moral leadership’ on tackling climate change, arguing that the Church’s response to the aims of the Paris Agreement must be ‘robust and timely’.

In proposing the Notice of Motion, Rev Sheryl Anderson, Chair of Liverpool District of the Methodist Church, said: ‘The business strategies of the major oil and gas companies are forecasting failure. They are based on the assumption that we will not meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius. Failure to do so will have devastating consequences for all of humanity, and will have a disproportionate impact on the poor and marginalised, who are largely women and children.’

Rev Richard Byass, who seconded the amendment, said: ‘In the context of a certain nation’s president withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, I believe we as churches have an opportunity and responsibility to demonstrate moral leadership, to protect the poorest of the world and safeguard God’s creation for future generations. We have been granted a beautiful and bountiful world in which to live, but there is only this one… I urge you to support this Notice of Motion so we can make a stand as a group of people who believe in justice.’

James Buchanan, who works on Operation Noah’s Bright Now divestment campaign, said: ‘The Methodist Conference has sent a strong signal to oil and gas companies that they must take swift action to demonstrate real commitment to the Paris Agreement targets, or face divestment. We hope other Churches will now show similar levels of resolve given the urgency of the situation.’

Operation Noah would like to thank all those involved in supporting the campaign for fossil fuel divestment in the Methodist Church, both locally and nationally.

The Notice of Motion (109) asked the Methodist Council to request the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI) to:

(a) examine the pace of change in the extractive industries sector;
(b) in the light of the increasing urgency for more global action, continue actively to consider disinvestment criteria, timescales, and consultation processes required to disinvest from oil and gas companies that fail to comply with the ethical basis outlined above;
(c) report to the Conference in 2018, with the expectation that any such company in which the Church invests has not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees, there would be a recommendation that the Church disinvest from such a company by the 2020 Conference.