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Welby talks to energy firms

13 December 2013

EXECUTIVES from energy companies met the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday, two months after he called on such firms to be "conscious of their social obligations", given the "severe" impact of energy price rises.

A statement from Lambeth Palace said that the senior representatives met to talk about "their perspectives on social responsibility around the energy-supply sector". This was "one of a number of private meetings hosted by Archbishop Justin in order to draw on the experience of people from different areas of national life".

Utility Week reported on Tuesday that the chief executives of British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, and Npower were expected to attend the meet-ing.

A spokesman from Npower told the publication: "We would always want to try and engage with the issue [of fuel poverty]. We want to talk about that with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and with any important stakeholder who has got a stake in these things. While energy is not the usual territory for religious leaders, it is important from a poverty point of view, which is certainly their territory, so it is right to talk."

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday in October, after a British Gas price rise (Press, 25 October), Archbishop Welby said: "The impact on people, particularly on low incomes, is going to be really severe in this, and the companies have to justify fully what they are doing."

Relationships between charities and energy firms came under scrutiny this week. It was alleged in The Independent on Tuesday that Save the Children had "repeatedly quashed press releases criticising British Gas price rises to avoid damaging its corporate partnership". The charity refuted the allegations as "categorically untrue".

EIAG survey criticised

THE Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) of the Church of England was denounced this week as "biased and ill-informed when it comes to fossil fuel disinvestment", writes Madeleine Davies.

On Tuesday, Operation Noah, a an ecumenical environment charity that is campaigning for disinvestment, criticised a survey produced by EIAG. EIAG had sought to assess views on a change in investment policy in the light of concerns about climate change, but Operation Noah says that the survey contains "both leading questions and false choices".

After asking whether the Church should disinvest from fossil fuels, EIAG asks whether this should be done even if it would "leave them unable to pay clergy pensions at agreed rates and unable to generate financial support for the Church at the levels previously enjoyed".

Respondents to the survey are also asked whether they agree with a number of statements, including: "I think the national investing bodies should be prophetic on climate change, whatever the financial consequences."

Isabel Carter, who chairs the charity, said: "This survey seems intended to exclude disinvestment from fossil fuels as an option by suggesting it would be too difficult both financially and morally. This is both unfair and untrue. . . We welcome a constructive debate on these issues, but to enable that to happen, stakeholders need genuine and open opportunities to express their views, and this survey does not do that."

Edward Mason, secretary of the EIAG, said on Wednesday that the EIAG "takes climate change extremely seriously, and we are open to the possibility of recommending excluding some potential investments if we think this is the most responsible approach, and if there is broad support from our stakeholders. . .

"Members of Operation Noah were scheduled to attend a planned meeting on this topic, and we want to engage with them on this. We are therefore disappointed that they have sought to portray this exercise in a negative light before we have had the opportunity to discuss this."

The EIAG survey is available at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/S2NFLNX

Question of the week: Should the Church disinvest from fossil fuels?


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