C of E General Synod affirms policy to divest from thermal coal & tar sands, but commits to engage with other fossil fuel co’s


Yesterday, the Church of England’s General Synod debated a motion on the Church’s investments in fossil fuels. The motion, proposed by the Bishop of Manchester, welcomed the decision of the Church’s investing bodies to disinvest from thermal coal and tar sands, whilst affirming the Church’s commitment to continue engaging with other fossil fuel companies.

This debate followed two resolutions passed by the Dioceses of Oxford and Birmingham, which call on the Church of England to disinvest from all fossil fuel companies within five years.

A series of amendments were proposed to yesterday’s motion, including one by the Revd Hugh Lee of the Diocese of Oxford. Revd Lee’s amendment urged Synod to put greater pressure on the oil industry, asking the Church’s investing bodies to engage robustly with fossil fuel companies, and to use the threat of disinvestment within three years in the absence of a commitment to cease oil exploration and reduce production consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 2 ?C.

The amendment was rejected by Synod following a response from the Bishop of Manchester, in which he stated that the Church’s engagement strategy must be ‘stretching but realistic’.

Three further amendments to the motion were adopted. These asked the Church to seek investments in renewable energies and other low-carbon energy and technologies, and to publish a framework for its engagement strategy by 2016.

Speaking after the debate, Ellie Roberts, divestment campaigner for Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign, said, ‘We are very pleased that Synod has backed of the Church’s decision to disinvest from coal and tar sands, as well as its commitment to strengthen support for investment in clean technologies. However, we remain concerned that without a deadline for action and clear criteria for disinvestment, the current engagement policy is too open ended to deliver the urgent change in direction we need from these companies.’

Commenting on the debate this morning, Mark Letcher, Vice Chair of Operation Noah said, ‘I very much welcome the decision by Synod to support the decision to disinvest from coal and tar sands and the significant change in stance the Church has adopted on this issue in the last twelve months.

The question, as raised by Revd Lee yesterday, is how we can now persuade fossil fuel companies to change their business plans. The fossil fuel industry continues to base its business strategy on ever increasing extraction and exploration of fossil fuel reserves, despite the fact that these reserves cannot be burned without resulting in unacceptable consequences for our planet and its people.

More and more Churches are concluding, like the Dioceses of Oxford and Birmingham, that after more than 20 years of dialogue it is time to disinvest and reinvest in clean energy alternatives. I very much hope that the Church will use the outcome of yesterday’s debate to hold companies such as Shell and BP to account, and disinvest if they do not bring forward proposals consistent with the 2 ?C limit.’


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