Church Commissioners and Ethical Investment


The Church Commissioners have celebrated the “best” results for their investment fund in eight years (News, 30 May). We are told that, after Government Treasury Bonds, their next biggest stock-exchange holdings were in Royal Dutch Shell, Vodafone, HSBC, and BP. So much for ethical investment!

It is bad enough to have substantial investments in a bank that has recently paid hundreds of millions in fines to US regulators for money laundering and in a company that saved billions of tax in a sweetheart deal with HM Revenue and Customs. Worse still are the large holdings in oil companies.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said recently that “it makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future.” He encouraged people of conscience to “break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change”. Churches in the UK, led by Operation Noah, are leading the way on fossil-fuel divestment.

The idea behind divestment is quite simple really. If we want to stop climate change, then we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Serious climate scientists agree that if we emit 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, then there is a chance that global warming will stay below 2°C. The bad news is that fossil-fuel companies and fossil-fuel-rich nations have current reserves of around 2795 gigatonnes already. This means that we not only have to stop looking for more (no more fracking), but also leave 80 per cent of reserves in the ground to have a chance of staying within two degrees of warming.

The Church Commissioners should be finding something less risky and more ethical to invest in than fossil fuels. Instead, they pat themselves on the back and award a £90,000 bonus to their highest-paid employee.

The General Synod has made clear its desire that the Church’s National Investing Bodies continually ensure that their investment policies are “aligned with the theological, moral and social priorities” of the Church on climate change.

There is so much that we can all do to tackle climate change by reducing our carbon emissions. The Church Commissioners need to divest themselves of their fossil-fuel investments now.

Letter published in Church Times, 20 June 2014.

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Simon Court