Church in Wales declares a climate emergency and divests from fossil fuels


The Church in Wales has declared a climate emergency and voted overwhelmingly to divest from fossil fuels at the Church’s Governing Body today.

At the online Governing Body meeting, Church in Wales members also voted in favour of a plan for the Church in Wales to aim to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The motion on fossil fuel divestment, brought by the Representative Body, called for the Church’s Ethical Investment Policy to be amended, so that no investments would be made in any company deriving more than 5% of its turnover from the production or the extraction of fossil fuels. It endorsed the recommendation for the divestment process to be completed by the end of 2021.

Members of Governing Body voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion on divestment from fossil fuel companies, with 94 votes (87%) in favour, 6 votes against and 8 abstentions.

The Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, is Chair of the Church in Wales’ environmental group (CHASE) and the Church’s Ethical Investment Group

The decision to divest from all fossil fuel companies, including oil and gas companies such as Shell and BP, follows the Church in Wales’ decision to divest from companies involved in the extraction of coal and tar sands in 2016.

The motion to declare a climate emergency and commit to net zero carbon emissions was brought by the Church’s environmental group, CHASE (Church Action for Sustaining the Environment).

Speaking in favour of the motion, Bishop Joanna Penberthy referred to the experience shared by Revd Jacynthia Murphy on the decision of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to divest: ‘A month ago, I was at an Anglican Communion webinar… and I was privileged to hear a speaker from the Province of Aoteoroa who spoke movingly of how some islands in her Province had already disappeared under the rising seas, while others are under threat.’

The motion to declare a climate emergency reads as follows: ‘We acknowledge that that an urgent and rapid global response to global warming is now necessary. We welcome the fact that solutions to alleviate the climate crisis are widely available including renewable technology, sustainable transport options and zero-carbon buildings. We support the decisions of governments, councils and organisations across Wales to pass motions declaring a climate emergency and setting net zero carbon emissions targets for their local areas.’

The motion also asks for an action plan to be prepared for consideration by the Governing Body in April 2022, setting out how the whole of the Church in Wales could reach a net zero carbon emission position ‘by 2030 or as soon as practically possible thereafter’. It was passed by an overwhelming majority.

The Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, who chairs both the Church in Wales’ environmental group (CHASE) and Ethical Investment Group, said: ‘Today the Governing Body has joined many others and declared a Climate Emergency. We have tasked our Climate Change Champion, Julia Edwards, to prepare us an action plan by April 2022, so we can reach net carbon zero by 2030. The Governing Body began today by reducing our investments in fossil fuels… We’ve opened our eyes: there’s no time to waste. As we declared today – this is an emergency.’

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, a Christian climate change charity, said: ‘This significant leadership from the Church in Wales in divesting from fossil fuels and setting a 2030 net zero target is hugely welcome, especially as the UK prepares to host COP26 later this year. We hope other Churches will join them in demonstrating support for a just and green recovery from Covid-19 by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future.’

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