Church of England divests £12 million from thermal coal and tar sands companies


The Church of England divests £12 million from thermal coal and tar sands companies and states that it will divest from other fossil fuel companies that do not take seriously their responsibility to assist transition to low-carbon economy.

In a new climate change policy, the Church of England has taken a significant step towards divestment by excluding companies deriving more than 10% of their revenues from tar sands and thermal coal, deeming such companies to be inconsistent with the transition to a low-carbon economy. The Church has also committed to increase its investment in climate adaptation and sectors such as renewable energy.

Ellie Roberts, divestment campaigner for Operation Noah, says, ‘We are delighted that the Church has begun to align its investments with its moral responsibility to take action on climate change by divesting from some of the most polluting fossil fuel companies. Tar sands and thermal coal exploration is entirely at odds with global efforts to keep temperature rise below 2°C. By divesting, the Church has sent a strong signal to these companies that they cannot continue to act in denial of the climate crisis. This marks the Church’s first major step to impose investment restrictions because of climate change.’

The Church has also, however, outlined a policy to engage with other fossil fuel companies, financial institutions and public policy.

Canon Giles Goddard, Operation Noah board member and member of the Church’s Environment Working Group, says, ‘We acknowledge the clear commitment to increased engagement. Faith groups have a great deal to contribute and it’s good to see the Church of England taking an increasing role in this debate. However, the report is not clear about the criteria for success. At what point would it be recognised that engagement has not borne fruit and that divestment is the necessary response to the challenge of climate change? More than 50 churches around the world have moved away from the oil, gas and coal companies. The Church of England is now part of this movement but must not be left behind again.’

The Church of England has come under increasing pressure from campaigners to divest. In the last six months, the Dioceses of Birmingham and Oxford have both passed motions calling on the Church to divest from all oil, gas and coal companies. The Oxford motion is expected to be debated at General Synod this July, providing the Synod with its first opportunity to back calls for divestment.

Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, the originator of the Oxford motion, says, ‘This is a wonderful step forward for the Church of England. However, I hope the Church will go further this summer by backing our call to fully divest from all fossil fuel companies by 2020, including oil and gas companies. Given that global emissions must peak by 2020 if we are to avoid a 2°C rise, this policy of engagement has a very brief window in which to work.’

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