Diocese of Oxford completes divestment from fossil fuel companies


The Diocese of Oxford has completed its divestment from fossil fuel companies, becoming the first Church of England diocese to publicly announce its divestment.

Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford, announced the decision on a webinar organised by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Operation Noah and other partners on Thursday 25 March, entitled COP26, Divestment and Investment for Climate Justice.

Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

The diocese affirmed its commitment to invest in renewable energy, as well as taking seriously its commitment to good environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies more generally. According to the most recent report from its investment managers, the Diocese of Oxford’s portfolio is in the 95th percentile in terms of ESG engagement compared with peers.

The decision of the Diocese of Oxford to divest its own investments in fossil fuel companies comes after its leadership in calling for the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies to accelerate divestment from fossil fuels at the Church of England General Synod in July 2018.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday 24 March, the Baptist Union decided to fully divest from fossil fuel companies. Baptist Union Council members overwhelmingly passed a resolution on divestment, with 98.5% voting in favour. The proposal had been brought to Council by Revd Dr Dave Gregory, Convenor of the Baptist Union’s Environmental Network, and was co-authored by John Levick, the Baptist Union Treasurer, as a practical commitment towards climate justice ahead of COP26.

In July 2018, the Church of England General Synod voted for a motion urging the National Investing Bodies (NIBs) ‘beginning in 2020, to start to disinvest from the [companies] that are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy… [and] ensure that by 2023 they have disinvested from fossil fuel companies that they have assessed, drawing on TPI data, as not prepared to align with the goal of the Paris Agreement to restrict the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C.’

Last year, CCLA Investment Management, whose CBF funds manage investments on behalf of many Church of England dioceses and local churches, sold its last remaining shares in fossil fuel companies (Shell and Total) for financial reasons.

However, the Church of England Pensions Board and Church Commissioners continue to invest in several oil and gas companies. The Church Commissioners continue to invest in ExxonMobil, despite Exxon having blocked resolutions on climate change proposed by the Church Commissioners from being considered at its AGM in 2019 and 2020.

Last month, it was revealed that Shell is planning to increase gas production by 20% in the next few years, despite the fact that global carbon emissions need to fall by 45% by 2030 (compared with 2010 levels) if global average temperature rises are to be limited to 1.5°C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints Church in Ascot Heath, said: ‘This is, of course, good news.  It restores the Diocese of Oxford to the lead position among Church of England dioceses in responding to the climate crisis. Those of us who live and work and serve in the Diocese of Oxford, and who are working for a more robust response to that crisis from the whole Church, can now do so again with integrity. I am very pleased and congratulate Bishop Steven and the whole of Bishop’s Council.’

Divest your church 

If you would be interested in getting your local church or regional Church structures (dioceses and equivalents) to make a divestment commitment, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org for further information or to register your interest.

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