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“The Church has a moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world's poor who are most vulnerable to climate change.”
Since April 30th, the Church Commissioners and the Pensions Board of the Church of England do not directly invest in any company that derives more than ten per cent of its revenues from the extraction of thermal coal or the production of oil from tar sands.
Remaining shares have already been sold. The new policy also contains a warning to disinvest from companies who “are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy.”
The new policy “marks the start of a process of divestment as well as engagement with fossil fuel companies and better aligns the Church's investment practice with its belief, theology and practice”, explained Bishop Nick Holtam, the Church of England's lead bishop on environment.
Pierre Jameson, chief investment officer of the Church of England Pensions board commented: “We want a global policy framework that incentivises a reduction in carbon emissions and the transition to a low carbon economy.”
Tom Joy, director of investments at the Church Commissioners confirmed that they “want to be at the forefront of institutional investors seeking to address the challenge of energy transition”. “This will predominantly be achieved through strategic engagement, as seen by recent shareholder resolutions at Shell and BP”, he said.
The move has been well received by campaigners, but they also pointed out that the Church must not be "lukewarm in our pursuit of justice.”
“We are delighted that the Church has begun to align its investments with its moral responsibility to take action on climate change”, a disinvestment campaigner for Operation Noah, Ellie Roberts, commented.
“By divesting, the Church has sent a strong signal to these companies that they cannot continue to act in denial of the climate crisis”, he added.
A spokeswoman for Christian Climate Action asked the Church of England to go further: "If the Church is to show real prophetic leadership before the climate talks in Paris, in December, it needs to divest from all those fossil-fuel companies who continue to put profit before people.”
Implementation of the 2008 EIAG (Ethical Investment Advisory Group) climate-change policy, included investment in an environmental-technology fund (the Commissioners are one of the largest investors), and investment in sustainable forestry, while the new policy includes a commitment to increase investments in climate-change adaptation, sustainable energy, and energy efficiency.
“The Church has a moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world's poor who are most vulnerable to climate change”, the deputy chairman of the EIAG, Canon Richard Burridge, stated.
Canon Giles Goddard, Vicar of St John's, Waterloo, and a member of the working group established by the Synod last year to address climate change, was happy with the announcement: “There is now broad consensus that we have to move as quickly as we can to a low-carbon economy”, he said.
But he also warned: “The report is not clear about criteria for success. At what point would it be recognised that engagement has not borne fruit? More than 50 churches around the world have moved away from the oil, gas, and coal companies.”
Other Christian organisations - including the World Council of Churches, and the Church of Sweden - and the Quakers in Britain have gone further in their disinvestment pledges. Last year, the diocese of Oxford announced that it would begin to withdraw its investments in oil, gas, and coal companies
The Church of England manages 3 investment funds, valued at £8,000-million (10,880-million €).