Oxford diocese votes to divest from fossil fuels

by
05 December 2014

by a staff reporter

AP

Heated: workers on a new oil rig at sunset, in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain, in August 

Heated: workers on a new oil rig at sunset, in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain, in August 

THE diocese of Oxford has announced that it will begin to withdraw its investments from oil, gas, and coal companies after its synod passed a motion calling on the Church of England to do the same within the next five years.

The diocese owns about £65 million in glebe funds, and some £2.8 million in other trust funds, and these portfolios include some investments in the oil and gas sector and in companies that mine coal.

The diocesan synod passed a resolution last month urging the Church of England's national investing bodies to disinvest from fossil-fuel companies: from coal and tar sands "at the earliest opportunity"; from oil in three years; and from natural gas in five years.

The diocese also committed itself to reviewing its own investments, becoming the first diocese in the Church of England to do so. The diocesan investment group has met to begin the process.

The Rector of All Saints', Ascot Heath, the Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, who is a trustee of the Christian environmental charity Operation Noah, said: "It was made clear in the debate by the diocesan officers that the diocese of Oxford could not call on the Church of England to disinvest and not do the same itself. The diocese will thus in the coming weeks and months begin the process of deciding how best to do this."

The diocese's finance officer has warned that the process will be complex, and that the C of E and the diocese "need to take into account the complexity of the real world", including the fact that some companies that produce coal also invest in alternative energy sources.

The vice-chairman of Operation Noah, Mark Letcher, said: "This resolution demonstrates how seriously local churches and dioceses are taking the issue of disinvestment.

Following recent commitments from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a national pension fund in Sweden, and the University of Glasgow, the decision today increases the pressure on the Church of England - which still has over £60 million invested in fossil-fuel companies - to disinvest."

The diocese of Oxford joins a growing number of fossil-free Churches and faith communities around the world, including the World Council of Churches, the Church of Sweden, Quakers in Britain, the Uniting Church in Australia, the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, and the United Church of Christ, in the United States.

Three Australian and five New Zealand Anglican dioceses have also disinvested; and the Anglican Church of Australia has passed a motion recommending disinvestment to all its churches.

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