United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire divests from fossil fuels


The United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire has decided to end its investments in fossil fuels. In announcing its decision, it highlighted the major contribution of fossil fuel companies to climate change and its disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest communities.

It joins more than 1,000 institutions around the world with over £6.5 trillion of assets under management that are part of the global divestment movement. These include nearly half of UK universities including the University of Sheffield, faith-based organisations such as the Church of Ireland, health institutions such as the Royal College of GPs and local councils including Southwark and Waltham Forest.

The URC’s Yorkshire Synod has become the second of 13 United Reformed Church Synods to divest from fossil fuels, after the URC Synod of Scotland divested in 2015. It decided to make the move as the United Reformed Church prepares to debate its fossil fuel investments at a national level in May this year, after resolutions on divestment were passed in Scotland, South Western and Thames North Synods.

While most UK Churches have made commitments to divest from coal and tar sands, the most polluting fossil fuels, many still invest millions of pounds in oil and gas companies. The United Reformed Church invests in several major oil companies including Shell, Total and Chevron.

Campaigners highlight that the major oil companies are continuing to obstruct stronger action on climate change. The Guardian reported last week that the five largest publicly listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200 million (£153 million) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.

Rev Kevin Watson, Moderator of the United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire

Rev Kevin Watson, Moderator of Yorkshire Synod for the United Reformed Church, said: ‘We have decided to divest from fossil fuels in response to the growing climate crisis. We are very concerned that fossil fuel companies are exploring for new reserves when we need to do all we can to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future. The time to act is now.’

Willie Duncan, a member of the Yorkshire Synod’s Financial Resources Committee who attends St Andrew’s Roundhay URC in Leeds, said: ‘Divesting from fossil fuel companies isn’t just a question of right and wrong – it is also a financially prudent decision. In order to meet the Paris Agreement targets, significant fossil fuel reserves will need to be left in the ground, making these investments over-valued and risking a financial bubble.’

James Buchanan, who works for Christian climate charity Operation Noah on the Bright Now divestment campaign, said: ‘We are delighted that the United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire has taken this step, and we hope that other Churches across the UK will join them. It is time for all investors concerned about climate change to get out of the problem and into the solution by divesting from fossil fuels and increasing investments in renewable energy and clean technologies.’

The United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire invites churches of all denominations to join them in divesting from fossil fuels as part of the Easter Declaration for Fossil Free Churches on Tuesday 23 April. It also hopes that its decision will give a boost to the wider divestment movement, including the Fossil Free West Yorkshire divestment campaign. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund has an estimated £900 million invested in fossil fuels, including over £500 million in companies with fracking operations.

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