From Mr Simon Court
Sir, - The Church of England's National Investing Bodies'
(NIBs') adoption of a new climate-change policy, recommended by the
Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), was made public last
Friday to an impressive publicity fanfare (
News, 1 May).
The Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions
Board announced a £12-million disinvestment from their filthiest
investments in thermal-coal and tar sands, omitting to mention they
retain extensive investments in fossil fuels, including the major
thermal-coal producer BHP Biliton.
Headlines were favourable, as the C of E presented itself as
belatedly moving away from seeking to profit from climate change
with fossil-fuel investments. It is worth looking behind the
headlines, even of a C of E press release. The new NIB Climate
Change Policy states: "from an ethical perspective, their key focus
in relation to climate change should be on assisting the transition
to a low carbon economy. The primary focus for the delivery of this
commitment should be engagement with companies and with policy
The new NIB Climate Change Policy is an aid to transparency,
making it clear that the NIBs are determined to retain substantial
investments in fossil-fuel producers. The claim to assist the
transition to a low-carbon economy by profiting from fossil-fuel
production is an unethical use of language. The policy recommended
by EIAG attempts to justify the C of E's seeking to profit from
unethical investments in businesses whose activities drive climate
The Ethical Investment Advisory Group appears to be in need of a
new title that more accurately describes its function. Unethical
Investment Advisory Group would seem more appropriate.
Eastgate Cottage, Perrys Lane
Cawston, Norwich NR10 4HJ
From the Revd John M. Overton
Sir, - When our activities cause damage to the planet, we need
to change our ways. There may, however, be various ways to change.
It is all too easy for single-issue groups to focus on one route,
regardless of reality or possible consequences.
For example, the "green" lobby in the 1990s to make inclusion of
biodiesel in diesel fuels compulsory had the effect of the loss of
Indonesian rainforest in order to plant oil palms for biodiesel.
Typically, the rainforest was cleared by burning. This caused
massive extra man-made carbon-dioxide emissions, and removed the
corrective effect of the rainforest that was lost.
Bishop David Atkinson (
Letters, 24 April) wrote: "The recent, very welcome shareholder
resolution that was promoted by church investors, requiring BP to
be more transparent in its relation to climate change, reportedly
took three years to negotiate."
At least it happened. If Churches had not been investors, it
might not have happened.
In response to the Bishop's question how the Church of England
can treat the issue of climate change more urgently, Mark Letcher,
vice-chair of Operation Noah and Managing Director of Climate Works
Ltd (Letters, 1
May), urges disinvesting from fossil-fuel companies as the
first of three suggestions. It might be a right thing to do, but
influence as a shareholder would be lost.
We shall have a measure of dependency on fossil fuels for some
time to come - at the very least. There is no current alternative
for air travel, and if we all switch to electric vehicles, the
demand for electricity will increase tremendously. No government is
going to opt for energy insecurity or to put at risk reliable
distribution of foodstuffs and essential services.
In the case of static plant such as coal, oil, or gas-fired
electricity generation, carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers a
potential route towards elimination of huge quantities of carbon
dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
The last Government agreed a multi-million pound contract for
engineering, design, and financial work on the Peterhead CCS
project in Aberdeenshire. A written statement to Parliament (24
February) said: "The world's first planned gas CCS project,
Peterhead involves installing carbon-capture technology onto SSE's
existing Peterhead gas power plant, and transporting the carbon
dioxide 100km offshore for safe, permanent storage 2km under the
North Sea in the old Goldeneye gas field. If built, the project
could save one million tonnes [of carbon dioxide] each year, and
provide clean electricity to over 500,000 homes."
There is no instantaneous solution to the issue of climate
change, but we need to move forward simultaneously on as many
fronts as possible - not least because we do not necessarily know
in advance which steps will work and which will be blind
We also need to be alert to stopping something once it has
become clear that it is compounding the problem, as was the case
with biodiesel and burning of rainforest. The problems of getting
global inter-governmental agreement on such matters should not be
My own background is that I worked for Shell for more than 30
years. By profession, I was a patent attorney; so I had a keen
interest in technology and innovation. I retired from Shell six
years ago and have no ongoing active role with Shell. I was proud
to work for Shell, and many of its employees are keen Christians.
Shell employees whom I knew were as concerned as anyone else about
environmental issues. It is certainly not a company in denial about
Lobbyists may succeed in persuading the Church of England to
disinvest from Shell and BP. If so, I hope that the reasons for
disinvestment are better than those so far proposed.
JOHN M. OVERTON
6 Brown Edge Close, Buxton
Derbyshire SK17 7AS
From the Revd Dr Jan Goodair
Sir, - In his letter, Mark Letcher's third suggested step
towards combating climate change was that we should fast and pray
on the first of each month.
May I humbly suggest that, in addition to this, we might daily
imitate the Bishop of Bath & Wells's present "meagre vegetarian
diet" (the Bishop lives on £1-a-day diet of bananas, onions, and
beans), or go even further and embrace a wholly plant-based (and
entirely healthy) diet.
The use of animals as food is the biggest contributor to climate
change. If we are serious about demonstrating leadership here, then
this is the change we can and must make. Such a change also makes
it possible for us to feed the world more easily, and shows
compassion to God's non-human creatures.
It requires no legislation, just an act of will. We could all do
Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School
Hertfordshire WD6 3AF