3

Dec

2019

First local Methodist church divests from fossil fuels

 

Ivybridge Methodist Church in Devon has decided to end its investments in fossil fuels, becoming the first local Methodist church in the UK to divest.

The church emphasised the desire to reduce its contribution to climate change as one of the key motivations for divesting from fossil fuels. Sophie Phillips, a steward at Ivybridge Methodist Church who put forward the proposal on divestment, said: ‘The more churches that divest, the bigger the impact we can have! We are delighted to be part of the Bright Now campaign, and are committed to reducing our impact on climate change.’

Ivybridge Methodist Church celebrating their decision to divest from fossil fuels
(Photo Credit: Sophie Phillips)

As well as divestment, Ivybridge Methodist Church is working on a range of community responses to the climate crisis. Sophie Phillips explained how ‘earlier this year we changed all the lights in the church for LEDs, and we’re encouraging our congregation to switch to a green tariff. We’re also working with our local town council to be part of their Climate Emergency Action Plan.’ Members of the church are also involved in campaigning against plans to build a gas power peaking power station near Ivybridge.

2020: a key year for climate action

Ivybridge Methodist Church’s decision to divest follows the release of a Guardian report showing that Shell and Exxon alone are planning to increase production of oil and gas by 35% between 2018 and 2030 – the 12 years when global carbon emissions instead need to fall by 45% if we are to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

Earlier this year, a Global Witness report showed that the global oil and gas industry plans to spend $5 trillion on the exploration and extraction of new reserves in the next decade. 

The announcement also comes as delegates from around the world meet in Madrid for the start of the UN climate summit (COP25) in Madrid, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warning that the world is fast approaching ‘the point of no return’ on the climate crisis. The UK will host the UN climate talks for the first time in 2020, as COP26 will take place in Glasgow.

Operation Noah is inviting local churches, regional Church structures and Christian organisations to join the Epiphany Declaration for Fossil Free Churches, a joint divestment announcement on 6 January 2020, sending a powerful and hopeful message about the need for urgent climate action at the start of the new year.

The Methodist Church and divestment

Their decision has been made at a key moment on divestment in the Methodist Church, following the motion passed at Methodist Conference in 2017, which called on the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church to divest from any oil and gas companies whose business investment plans are not aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a ‘global temperature rise well below 2°C’ by 2020.

Ivybridge Methodist Church has investments managed by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, which continues to invest in fossil fuels. Following the commitment to divest, they will now be considering their options with regard to fossil free funds to which they could switch their investments. They will also encourage other local Methodist churches locally to do the same.

Epworth Investment Management, an investment manager wholly owned by the Central Finance Board, has begun consultation on a new Epworth fund that would exclude investments in fossil fuel companies, following increased demand from clients that no longer wish to invest in fossil fuels.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager for Operation Noah, said: ‘We are delighted that Ivybridge Methodist Church has taken this prophetic step, and would like to thank all those involved in making the decision. We hope that many other local Methodist churches, Circuits, Districts and the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church will join them in fully divesting from fossil fuels in the year ahead.’

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