THE national investment bodies (NIBs) of the Church of England
have announced a £12-million disinvestment from two of the most
From 30 April, the Church Commissioners and the Pensions Board
will 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. Existing shares have already been
sold. The new policy also contains a threat to disinvest from
companies who "are not taking seriously their responsibilities to
assist with the transition to a low carbon economy".
The move was welcomed by campaigners, but tempered with a
warning that the Church must not be "lukewarm in our pursuit of
"The Church of England has effectively read the last rites to
the coal and tar sands industry," Christian Aid's director of
policy and public affairs, Christine Allen, said after the
announcement on Thursday. "The message must be heard loud and
clear: they have no place in a sustainable future, and, ultimately,
other fossil fuels don't, either.
"The openness to further divestment from intransigent companies
must be heard as a final warning to the energy industry: shift
investment out of fossil fuels and into renewables, or your
investors will do so for you."
"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
"By divesting, the Church has sent a strong signal to these
companies that they cannot continue to act in denial of the climate
The senior campaigner for climate and energy at Friends of the
Earth, Simon Bullock, supported the Church's "moral stance in
putting coal investment on a par with tobacco, pornography, and
But he warned that "coal is not the only fossil fuel putting our
futures at risk. Only a tiny fraction of the world's coal, oil, and
gas reserves are safely burnable; so we should not be exploring for
new fossil fuels. New exploration such as fracking should also join
the Church's list of morally unacceptable investments."
The climate-change policy of the Ethical Investment Advisory
Group (EIAG), adopted by the investing bodies on Thursday, states
that "some ongoing use of fossil fuels is likely to be necessary
for some time" if other goals are to be achieved, such as tackling
poverty. It speaks of "sustained efforts of many fronts over many
Reportedly, the NIBs have about £92 million invested in BP, and
about £100 million in Shell.
Investment in fracking is not ruled out by the EIAG, which
suggests that it "may well have a part to play in reducing
Engagement with fossil-fuel companies rather than disinvestment,
is the means by which the NIBs propose being at "the forefront" of
those "addressing the challenge of the transition to a low-carbon
The Commissioners' director of investments, Tom Joy, explained
that the £12-million disinvestment announced was from a sector
where "we do not think engagement would be productive".
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 (News, 5
Ms Roberts said that she hoped that the General Synod would back
this movement when it met in July.
"We are not called to be lukewarm in our pursuit of justice,"
said a spokeswoman for Christian Climate Action. "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
"We would also urge the members of General Synod to not settle
for 'divestment-lite' when they are asked to make a decision, but
instead to vote to divest completely from all fossil-fuel
companies, putting the Church on the right side of history."
Paul Bodenham, who chairs Green Christian, said: "Hanging on to
selected fossil-fuel investments for the sake of engaging with the
extractors is futile. . .
"The Church's investors call this a transitional, evolving
policy, and that is what it must be. Ultimately divestment is
inescapable, and they need a policy that goes all the way. Anything
less risks colluding in a fool's paradise."
Mr Bartley called for the Church to go beyond disinvestment.
"What many people in the pews also want to see is the Church moving
from a policy of 'minimising harm' through divestment to one of
actively investing more in the green business sector, which is
worth £120 billion in the UK," he said.
Implementation of the previous EIAG climate-change policy,
adopted in 2008, included investment in an environmental-technology
fund (the Commissioners are one of the largest investors), and
investment in sustainable forestry. 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," said the deputy chairman of the
EIAG, Canon Richard Burridge.
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, the lead
bishop on the environment, said that the move "marks the start of a
process of divestment as well as engagement with fossil fuel
companies. . . Climate change is the most pressing moral issue in
The Vicar of St John's, Waterloo, Canon Giles Goddard, a member
of the working group established by the Synod last year to address
climate change, welcomed the announcement: "There is now broad
consensus that we have to move as quickly as we can to a low-carbon
But he 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.
"The Church of England is now part of this movement, but must
not be left behind again."