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 of last week. "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 conservation director at the Christian environmental charity
A Rocha UK, Andy Lester, said that the announcement showed that the
Church was "firmly behind alternative energies - and certainly
opposed to future investment in fossils fuels".
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: "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, 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
It has been reported that 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 economy".
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, 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 people.
"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
Jonathan Bartley, the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for
Streatham, called for the Church to go beyond disinvestment: "What
many people in the pews . . . 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."
Climate change and the Church of England investing bodies -