Church of Scotland divests from oil and gas companies


Christian environmental and development charities Operation Noah, Christian Aid and Eco-congregation Scotland, have welcomed the decision of the Church of Scotland Investors’ Trust to sell its shares in oil and gas companies.

The Church of Scotland’s decision to divest from oil and gas companies was shared in the Faith Impact Forum report to the 2021 General Assembly, which will take place online from Saturday 22 May to Thursday 27 May.

The decision is especially significant as Glasgow prepares to host the UN climate talks (COP26) in November 2021.

Divestment campaigners at the Church of Scotland General Assembly in 2018

The Faith Impact Forum report ‘welcome[s] the fact that ‘no oil and gas company shares are currently held’ by the Church of Scotland Investors Trust. It noted that any future investment in these companies would only happen if the Church of Scotland Investors Trust and the Faith Impact Forum agreed that good evidence existed ‘that its strategy and implementation was aligned with the stringent targets set by the Paris Agreement’.

The report also welcomes ‘the agreement with the Church of Scotland Investors Trust that, as a matter of principle, the portfolios of investments managed should align with the UN Paris Agreement in pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.’

Operation Noah, Christian Aid and Eco-congregation Scotland called on the Church of Scotland to now rule out future investments in fossil fuel companies.

Fossil fuel divestment has been debated at the Church’s General Assembly every year since 2018. In December 2019, the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council called on the Church’s Investors Trust divest from all fossil fuel companies ‘as a matter of urgency’.

The decision of the Church of Scotland to sell its shares in oil and gas companies follows moves by both the Church of Scotland and Scottish Episcopal Church to set targets to reach net zero emissions by 2030.

In June 2019, the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod voted to change its ethical investment policy following a motion proposed by Revd Diana Hall, Rector of St Anne’s, Dunbar. The motion stated that ‘the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels’.

In March this year, Operation Noah, Eco-congregation Scotland, Christian Aid, Justice & Peace Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland, hosted a webinar on divestment attended by nearly 200 people. The webinar, entitled COP26, Divestment and Investment in the Just and Green Recovery, explored how Churches in Scotland – both locally and nationally – can support a just and green recovery by divesting from fossil fuels and re-orienting investments towards a clean energy future.

More than 50 church leaders, including the Bishops of Edinburgh and Brechin (Scottish Episcopal Church) and the Leader of the Iona Community, have signed the Scottish Churches COP26 Pledge on Divestment and the Just and Green Recovery.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘We welcome this decision by the Church of Scotland to divest from oil and gas companies, which is a hugely significant step ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year. We thank all the Church of Scotland members who have campaigned tirelessly to make this happen. It is vital that the Church of Scotland rules out future investments in the fossil fuel industry and supports a just transition by investing in the clean technologies of the future.’

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: ‘Christian Aid stands together with churches and communities across the world to eradicate poverty. We welcome the decision by the Kirk to disinvest in fossil fuels as it is a living example of putting faith into action. The effects of climate change make it increasingly difficult for fragile communities to escape entrenched poverty, As one of our partners said, ‘forget making poverty history, climate change is making it permanent.’ Communities living with the devastating consequences of climate chaos have been consistently calling on us all to make the significant changes necessary to bring climate justice. Investing our money and our energy in renewable and sustainable resources is one practical way to respond.’

Stephen Curran, Manager of Eco-Congregation Scotland, said: ‘Eco-Congregation Scotland welcomes this significant decision by the Church of Scotland, following divestment by a growing number of parishes and denominations. All churches accept a duty to make prudent and ethical decisions with any money in their stewardship. At this challenging time, divestment can also avert a damaging withdrawal in areas currently reliant on oil and gas industries by ensuring that reinvestment and new jobs offer a sustainable low carbon economy for the future. When we welcome the world to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this November, this important move by the Church of Scotland clearly demonstrates that churches here are taking action and leading by example in tackling the climate emergency.’

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