4

Mar

2021

Global divestment announcement: Divest your church in the year of COP26

 

Together with our friends at the Global Catholic Climate Movement, World Council of Churches, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith, Operation Noah is delighted to launch the next global divestment announcement for faith organisations, which will take place on 17 May 2021.

Members of the Eco Church group at St John the Evangelist in Upper St Leonards with rector Revd David Hill and treasurer David Atwood

The global divestment announcement, which will take place as the UK prepares to host the UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow in November, offers an opportunity to faith organisations to highlight the urgent need to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives.

As governments around the world invest significant sums in economic recovery packages, it is vital that these investments support a just and green recovery from Covid-19. Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres wrote that ‘these decisions will be the most important decision on climate change.’ Churches and faith institutions are calling for a just and green recovery by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean alternatives.

With several Churches set to debate divestment in the coming months, joining the global divestment announcement is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on the climate crisis and encourage your national Church denomination to do the same.

The Baptist Union will debate divestment in late March, while the Church in Wales will consider divestment in April at its Governing Body meeting. In May, six months before COP26 in Glasgow, the Church of Scotland General Assembly will vote on whether to divest.

There is an increasing number of fossil free funds available

A growing number of investment funds have already gone fossil free. Following the United Reformed Church decision to divest from fossil fuels in 2019, CCLA Investment Management announced that its COIF Charities Ethical Investment Fund would complete divestment from fossil fuels by December 2019. More recently, CCLA’s CBF funds, which are managed on behalf of many Church of England dioceses and local churches, sold their last remaining shares in fossil fuel companies for financial reasons.

Epworth Investment Management, a subsidiary of the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, recently launched the Climate Stewardship Fund, a fossil free fund avoiding investments in fossil fuel companies, mining companies and other carbon-intensive industries.

Divestment works

The UN Environment Programme noted the effectiveness of divestment in its November 2019 report, The Production Gap: ‘Through fossil fuel divestment campaigns and other efforts, civil society groups and investors have placed social, political, and economic pressure on governments and companies to move away from supporting fossil fuel production.’

Even the major oil companies are acknowledging the impact of divestment. Shell’s 2018 annual report stated: ‘Some groups are pressuring certain investors to divest their investments in fossil fuel companies. If this were to continue, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our securities and our ability to access equity capital markets.’ In other words, divestment is making it more expensive for oil and gas companies to raise finance for exploration, extraction and production of fossil fuels.

The growing financial risk of fossil fuel investments

In December 2019, former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, spoke about the risk of investors in fossil fuel companies being left with ‘stranded assets’, noting that oil and gas companies have not been a good investment in recent years. Shell, BP and Equinor have significantly cut their dividend payments in recent months.

In July 2020, one of the Church of England’s three National Investing Bodies, which is managed by investment management company CCLA, sold its last remaining shares in fossil fuel companies.

CCLA, whose CBF funds manage investments on behalf of most Church of England dioceses and many local CofE churches, said it had dropped its investments in oil giants Shell and Total for financial reasons.

Divest your church

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

This involves making a commitment to divest (disinvest) any investments in fossil fuel companies within a five year timeframe and a pledge not to invest in fossil fuels in the future. Even if your church doesn’t currently hold any fossil fuel investments (for instance if it only has a bank account), it can make a powerful statement by pledging not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.

Any groups interested in joining the announcement will confirm (i) that they have divested from fossil fuel investments; or (ii) that they will divest from any investments in fossil fuels as soon as possible, and within five years at the latest; or (iii) that they do not hold any fossil fuel investments and will not invest in fossil fuels in the future.

Please get in touch with Bokani Tshidzu on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org by 10 May 2021 for further information or to register your interest.

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