C of E urged to pull out of fossil fuels

19 May 2017

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CHRISTIAN AID has challenged the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels, after it emerged that the Archbishop of Canterbury was involved in persuading a major investment fund to pull its own money out fossil fuels.

BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds will no longer invest in any company which has reserves of fossil fuels, it an­­nounced on Monday. Archbishop Welby is the president of the firm’s ethical advisory council, and report­edly played a key part in pushing through the change in policy, which will be implemented by 2020.

Christian Aid is now ques­tioning why the Archbishop cannot play the same part closer to home and pull the C of E’s own investments out of fossil-fuel reserves.

The director of BMO’s governance and sustainable investment team, Vicky Bakhshi, said: “If all current known reserves are extracted and burnt, we know that the world would not meet the two-degrees temperature limit estab­lished under the Paris Agreement.

“As such, we have come to the view that investment in companies with fossil-fuel reserves is increas­ingly incompatible with the ethical and sustainability objectives of the Responsible Strategies range that we run.”

“This policy is a most impressive piece of work, and puts BMO Global Asset Management in the front line as a leader on the issue of climate change,” Archbishop Welby said.

BMO’s range of responsible funds manage in total about £1.5 billion of assets. The company’s new policy goes further than the C of E’s own guidelines, which prohibit investment only in firms involved in the especially polluting oil from tar sands and thermal coal (News, 1 May 2015).

A report last year suggested that £4 trillion was now invested in ethical funds which had committed to selling off all fossil-fuel assets. Christian Aid has questioned whether the time had come for the C of E to follow suit.

“Moving investment out of fossil fuels is a moral challenge of our times,” the charity’s head of advo­cacy, Tom Viita, said. “When a major private company drops its fossil-fuel investments for ethical reasons, one must ask whether the Church of England’s policy is keeping pace.

“So far it has taken the approach that engagement with fossil-fuel companies is the way forward, not divestment.

“With such a big investment comp­any now taking the route of divestment, it may be time for the Church to re-examine its current policy. Throughout history, the Church has been known for pro­viding prophetic leadership on the big moral issues, and there is none bigger than that of climate change.”

When asked for a comment, a spokesman for the Church Com­­mis­­sioners referred to a letter from the C of E Pensions Board in last week’s Church Times (Letters, 12 May) which set out why they prefer engagement to divestment.

UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA/PASwamped: an undated photo issued by the University of Tasmania, of plastic debris scattered across a beach in Henderson Island, in the eastern South Pacific. Research released this week by university scientists and the UK RSPB identified the small, uninhabited landmass as having the highest density of anthropogenic litter of anywhere in the world. More than 99 per cent of the matter is identified as plastic — an estimated 38 million pieces of plastic are on Henderson — 68 per cent of which is now buried under the beach surface, as currents wash up thousands of tonnes daily. The World Council of Churches’ working group on climate change, meeting last week in Wuppertal, Germany, focussed on the Pacific Island nations. the Revd Tafue Lusama, general secretary of the Tuvalu Christian Church, said that the effects of climate change had become “an urgent part of everyday life”, for Pacific islanders. “We are already experiencing increased intensity of tropical cyclones, severe storm surges, coral bleaching, saltwater intrusions, coastal erosion, changing rain patterns, submersion of islands, and ocean acidification. This puts us in the Pacific at the brink of extinction. It challenges our very survival from the very basic sources and core of our existence”

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