Methodist Church divests from all fossil fuel companies


The Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church has fully divested from fossil fuel companies, after selling its remaining shares in Shell and Equinor.

The decision followed advice received from the Methodist Church’s Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI) earlier this month, that no oil and gas companies are currently aligned with the climate change targets set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Central Finance Board divested from coal and tar sands in 2015.

The Methodist Church has sold almost £21 million in shares in Shell, as well as selling around £2 million of bonds in Norwegian oil company Equinor.

David Palmer, Chief Executive of the Central Finance of the Methodist Church, which oversees £1.3 billion of investments, said: ‘The patience of the Church has run out.’ He added: ‘The pace of change across the oil and gas sector has been inadequate and we welcome the recommendation of JACEI to disinvest.’

Revd Dr Stephen Wigley, Chair of JACEI, commented: ‘The Committee has determined that the slow pace of corporate change means that the oil and gas sector is failing to meet the targets set by the Paris Accord. Shell, along with its peers, is currently failing to play a substantial enough role in addressing the climate emergency.’

The decision comes after the Methodist Conference and Methodist Council both supported resolutions on fossil fuel divestment last year.

The 2017 Methodist Conference passed a motion calling for divestment from any fossil fuel company that had ‘not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees’ by the 2020 Conference.

The Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church previously announced in June 2020 that it would divest from BP and Total.

In the same month, 260 Methodists, including 114 ministers and former Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Methodist Conference, signed a letter calling for the Central Finance Board to complete divestment from all fossil fuel companies. The group highlighted recent Transition Pathway Initiative and Carbon Tracker analysis, showing that no oil and gas companies had aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement goals.

The Methodist Council passed a resolution on divestment in October 2020, after the Methodist Conference: ‘The Council supports the request that JACEI recommends that the Central Finance Board… disinvests before the 2021 Conference from all oil and gas companies which are not currently aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees.’ The issue had been referred to Council by the Methodist Conference in July 2020.

In February 2021, US environmentalist and co-founder of 350.org Bill McKibben addressed nearly 400 people at an online event on fossil fuel divestment in the Methodist Church.

Ivybridge Methodist Church became the first local Methodist church to divest in December 2019

Michael Pryke, Chair of the Methodist Zero Carbon Group and former Methodist Youth President, welcomed the news: ‘It’s excellent to see the Methodist Church divesting from oil and gas companies. The prophetic voice of the Church has been heard and the reaction has been amazing to witness. But we mustn’t get complacent, as we still have a lot to do to achieve net zero by 2030.’

Martha Rand, Vice Chair of the Methodist Zero Carbon Group, who proposed the motion on divestment at Methodist Conference as a representative of the Methodist Youth Assembly, said: ‘I’m overjoyed to hear today that the Central Finance Board has fully divested from oil and gas. As Methodists and Christians, it is vital that we show our concern for God’s world and our siblings around the globe through action as well as words. This is a brilliant and important step we have taken. Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen, especially Operation Noah and everyone in the Methodist Zero Carbon Group.’

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, a Christian climate change charity, said: ‘This is a hugely significant and welcome step by the Methodist Church in responding to the climate emergency, especially as the UK prepares to host COP26 in November. We thank all the Methodists who have campaigned tirelessly to make this happen. We hope other Churches will join them in supporting a just and green recovery by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future.’

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