31

Jul

2019

Scottish Episcopal Church recognises ‘moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels’

 

The Scottish Episcopal Church has taken a major step towards divestment from fossil fuels after its General Synod voted to change its ethical investment policy.

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh (photo credit: Harry McGregor)

This followed the rejection of a motion, proposed by the Church’s Investment Committee, to update its ethical investment policy to ‘reflect the use of pooled funds’ and to ‘transfer all or part of the current segregated ethically screened fund to appropriate pooled funds’.

The motion proposed by Church investors would have removed the ethical restrictions on certain investments, prompting controversy in the months leading up to General Synod.

General Synod voted instead in favour of a new motion proposed by the Revd Diana Hall, Rector of St Anne’s, Dunbar. The motion stated that ‘the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels’.

As a result of the motion passed, an Ethical Investment Advisory Group will be formed to develop a strategy to enable the Scottish Episcopal Church to completely divest from unethical sources of revenue.

Revd Diana Hall argued that the Synod could demonstrate leadership as a prophetic voice on ethical investment. She urged that the motion be passed for the ‘good of our world’. She said: ‘My generation, and the generations in this room, are letting young people down. . . If we continue invest in fossil fuels, we actively contribute to climate chaos.’

She was supported by the Revd Dr Jenny Wright, Assistant Curate of Old St Paul’s, Edinburgh, who said that the ethical investment policy reflected to the world the values that the Scottish Episcopal Church stands for. ‘We cannot be seen to invest in companies that are inconsistent with Christian values,’ she said.

The opportunity to discuss divestment came about as a result of the Investment Committee seeking to revise its ethical investment policy. It had hoped to amend the policy for pooled funds, which would have ceased restrictions on investment in companies where more than 15 per cent of their income is derived from categories such as armaments, gambling, tobacco, pornography, and thermal coal and tar sands.

Revd Diana Hall argued that this motion would leave the Church ‘in dereliction of its moral duty’, quoting the climate activist Greta Thunberg: ‘Our house is on fire.’

The Scottish Episcopal Church decision to move towards divestment follows similar steps by other Churches in the Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and the Church of Ireland, both of which have decided to fully divest from fossil fuels.

Last year, the Church of England’s General Synod voted to complete divestment by 2023 from oil and gas companies not on track to align with the Paris Agreement targets, and to begin divestment in 2020 from companies that are ‘not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy’.

Text of the motion passed by Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod

That:

  • the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels and to extend the list of restricted categories for direct investment and pooled funds;
  • pending agreement of a revised ethical investment policy, the current ethical investment policy be retained; and
  • there be formed an Ethical Investment Advisory Group to develop a strategy to enable the Scottish Episcopal Church to completely disinvest from unethical sources of revenue.
Bookmark and Share