The Bright Now launch: faith, money and ethical investment


By Canon Giles Goddard

We officially launched the Bright Now campaign on Friday 20th September. Our speakers were Mark Letcher, Operation Noah’s Vice-Chair, and Canon Giles Goddard. Here is what Giles had to say:

It’s a great privilege to be speaking at this launch. I have huge respect for the work of Operation Noah; it’s felt, sometimes, as though Christians concerned about climate change are voices crying in the wilderness, and the work of Operation Noah has given me confidence and courage as I’ve worked on this.

And I commend this report. It’s timely, it’s urgent and we must, as churches, act on its recommendations.

Why is it so important?

Three reasons: first to do with faith, second, with money, and third, with the world we have power over.

First, then, in terms of faith. The Ash Wednesday Declaration is very clear. I encourage you to read it, if you haven’t already.

Two quotes: According to the witness of our Scriptures, everything that we have, life and the means of life, comes to us as gift. This is the ground of our worship.

The concept of gift is something we don’t hear much about, now. But we did nothing to bring the world into being, in all its extraordinary complexity, beauty and strangeness. We have the good fortune to be living here, and it’s our responsibility to take care of it.

As the declaration goes on to say, We must use our power wisely to promote the flourishing of future generations and the diversity of life on earth. This is the responsibility of every Church and every believer.

There is no serious doubt that climate change is happening; it’s happening in ways we understand and ways we don’t yet understand, but no one who has seen the glacier retreat in South America or who has heard the stories of the Kiribati Islands or the Maldives can deny that the results of our actions are already serious and likely to get worse.

So we have an ethical responsibility to act.

Second, in terms of money. I speak as a pensioner. Or rather, I should say, a potential pensioner – someone who is reliant on the Church of England’s investments for my retirement. The Church of England has a very carefully thought through ethical investment policy in terms of arms, pornography and alcohol, and has recognised that there are many examples of ways in which it is wrong to invest, even if the returns are potentially high. Even with this, the C of E’s investments have increased by well above average. This issue, the issue of climate change is potentially far more harmful than anything else – than the arms trade, than alcohol, than pornography, than gambling, serious though all of those are: we must take action on this. The Stranded Assets argument is, to me, entirely convincing, but even if there is no agreement at Doha in 2015 we should still lead on disinvestment.

But I am encouraged by what I’m hearing. The Ethical Investment Advisory Group is currently revising its guidelines, and we have had constructive discussions with them. I’m looking forward to debating all this at General Synod next year. The Church of England has, in fact, reduced its investments in fossil fuels recently – from £154m in Shell and BP in 2010 to £60.2m in 2012, for investment reasons; so we’re already heading in the right direction.

We need to go further, and act.

Thirdly, and most crucially, we should be disinvesting for practical reasons. Every time I hear of the terrible situation in the Middle East, or of the way in which the possession of oil has debilitated the economy of a country like Nigeria, I’m bemused. I bemused by why we’ve allowed our dependence on I have been for thirty years. It’s been astonishing that we haven’t poured money and research and resources into developing cheap, abundant forms of renewable energy. Enough energy hits the earth from the sun every forty minutes- every forty minutes – to power the whole of humanity for a whole year.  That’s an astonishing statistic. If we’d put one tenth of the time and money into working on renewables that we have into exploiting fossil fuels, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Only yesterday I read an article in the Guardian about nano-technology and solar power. There’s talk about thorium as a far better source of nuclear power than uranium. There are endless possibilities if we put our minds to it. But as long as we remain tied up with fossil fuels, that ain’t gonna happen.

So we need to act.

Disinvestment would be a sign that we are serious. There might be a short-term cost to some of our pension funds; but the long term benefits are beyond words. For the sake of our faith, for the sake of our financial security, and for the sake of our world and all the people in it, I urge everyone to support this document and encourage your organisations to act.

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Giles Goddard

Canon Giles Goddard

Giles Goddard is Priest in Charge of St John's Church, Waterloo and an honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral. In July 2013 he proposed a resolution passed by the Diocese of Southwark calling on the General Synod of the Church of England to consider disinvestment from fossil fuels.