Church of England launches ‘Transition Pathway Initiative’ engagement framework


Today the Church of England joined the Environment Agency Pension Fund, the LSE’s Grantham Institute and various asset owners in launching the Transition Pathway Initiative, its framework for engagement with fossil fuel companies. Other partners include the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church and CCLA.

The Transition Pathway Initiative is an online tool that will be used to assess fossil fuel companies as well as those in various other sectors. Assessments will be made on criteria including Management Quality (made available today for the 20 largest global oil and gas and electricity utilities companies) and Carbon Performance (available from May/June 2017).

We welcome the publication of the Transition Pathway Initiative – the Church of England’s framework for engagement with fossil fuel companies that was first promised at General Synod in July 2015. However, we believe that it does not go far enough.

We are very concerned that the Transition Pathway Initiative will measure companies not only against the 2 degree target but also the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which would lead to between 2.7 and 3.5 degrees of average global warming and devastating climate impacts.

At the launch event today, it was stated that the INDCs are the ‘minimum’ that would be expected from fossil fuel companies. This is not good enough. We believe that companies should be measured against the targets of the Paris Agreement (1.5/2 degrees).

Operation Noah believes that divestment would be the most effective approach, and it is our view that any church engagement with fossil fuel companies must reflect the urgency of the climate crisis. 2016 was the hottest year on record, bringing devastating floods to the UK, including one village in Cumbria that was flooded four times in eight weeks, severe drought and wildfires in the US, and a heatwave in the Arctic that has led to the lowest ever wintertime ice there.

It is therefore disappointing that no timescales for church engagement with fossil fuel companies were revealed at the launch of the Transition Pathway Initiative.

Given the analysis from Carbon Brief that less than five years remain until the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees is used up, there needs to be a credible threat of divestment from, and sanctions against, companies that do not respond to engagement. When will the Church of England divest from companies such as ExxonMobil, which rejected all climate change resolutions at its AGM last year?

There is hope for the future but, as Pope Francis has said in his encyclical, Laudato Sì, fossil fuels need to be ‘progressively replaced without delay’. The Church of England should follow the lead of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and speed up the transition by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean alternatives.

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