3

Jun

2020

Methodist Church divests from BP and Total, but continues investing in four oil companies

 

Yesterday, the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church announced that it had divested its shares in the major oil companies BP and Total. This is a welcome step forward, but does not go far enough in implementing the motion on divestment passed at Methodist Conference in 2017.

In positive news, the Central Finance Board decided to sell its £2 million stake in Total in March. It sold its £15 million stake in BP last week, after concluding that BP had not provided detail on how its recent commitments on emission reductions would be met. It also excluded several other oil and gas companies from future investment, among them ExxonMobil and Chevron, whose stocks it did not hold.

However, the Central Finance Board decided to continue investing in four oil and gas companies – Shell, Repsol, ENI and Equinor – while putting these companies on notice, since ‘even recent new commitments do not go far enough or reflect the urgency of the threat facing our planet’.

In 2017, the Methodist Conference voted to support a motion asking the Church’s Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI) to report to the Methodist Conference, with the expectation that ‘if any [fossil fuel] company in which the Church invests has not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees, there would be a recommendation that the Church disinvest from such a company by the 2020 Conference’.

In order to implement this resolution, the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church must now fully divest from all fossil fuel companies, since no oil and gas companies have aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement goals.

The 2017 Methodist Conference votes for divestment (Photo credit: Georgia Harrison)

Our report published last month, Church investments in major oil companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant?, called on the Methodist Church to fully divest from fossil fuels and showed that none of the major oil companies are aligned with the Paris Agreement targets. The report draws on research from Carbon Tracker, the Transition Pathway Initiative, InfluenceMap and others.

Between now and 2030, major oil companies, including Shell and BP, plan to spend huge sums ($149 billion and $71 billion respectively) on exploration and extraction of new reserves. Shell and BP intend to increase production of oil and gas by 38% and 20% respectively over the next decade.

Carbon Tracker’s 2019 Breaking the Habit report found that all of the major oil companies continue to sanction projects that are not Paris compliant. This has continued even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Shell gave the green light to a massive $6.4 billion natural gas project in Australia last month.

The Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), a project launched by the Church of England and supported by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, published a new report last month which found that none of the major oil companies are aligned with the Paris Agreement targets, and only four companies are aligned with the ‘Paris pledges’ (or nationally determined contributions, NDCs) made by governments ahead of the UN climate talks in 2015. This would lead to between 2.9°C and 3.4°C of human-induced warming – thus triggering feedback loops such as melting permafrost and leading to further, potentially unstoppable warming.

While the recent Methodist divestment announcement is a positive step forward, it does not go far enough. It is now time for the Methodist Church to complete divestment from all oil and gas companies, and we hope that the Methodist Conference will support full divestment from fossil fuels when it meets at the end of this month.

Interested in finding out more?

Operation Noah is organising a webinar to launch our new report, Church investments in major oil companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant?, on Wednesday 10 June, 7pm-8.30pm. The webinar includes guest speakers from several denominations, including Michael Pryke, former Methodist Youth President.

Visit Eventbrite for more details and to register for your place.

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