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URC votes to disinvest from fossil fuel companies

17 May 2019

Mission Council votes unanimously to sell £2 million of shares

United Reformed Church

From left: James Buchanan, of Operation Noah; the Revd Alex Mabbs, Minister of Brighthelm URC; Katie Henderson, Natalie Gibbs, and AJ Mills, co-Moderators and representative of URC Youth Assembly; the Revd Dr David Pickering and Mark Kirkbride from the URC National Synod of Scotland

From left: James Buchanan, of Operation Noah; the Revd Alex Mabbs, Minister of Brighthelm URC; Katie Henderson, Natalie Gibbs, and AJ Mills, co-Modera...

THE United Reformed Church (URC) has voted unanimously in favour of selling its investments — worth £2 million — in fossil-fuel companies.

The resolution was brought to the URC Mission Council in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, on Monday evening, by the URC synod of Scotland, which ceased its own fossil-fuel investments in 2015.

Mission Council is the executive body of the URC General Assembly, made up of 13 regional synods, which meets twice a year. It resolved that, by the time of its biennial General Assembly in 2020, the URC should disinvest from companies involved in the extraction or supply of oil and gas.

The URC holds equity investments worth £100 million to support the activities of the Church, including ministerial salaries and pensions. Half of this is managed by the URC Trust, of which an estimated four per cent is invested in the fossil-fuel industry. The URC disinvested from coal and tar sands in 2015.

The resolution also called on the URC to “shift its shareholder engagement efforts” to other high-carbon industries, such as the automotive sector, while “scaling up investment in renewable energy and clean technologies”. It encouraged other URC regional synods and Churches to disinvest.

The Moderator of the URC National Synod of Scotland, the Revd Dr David Pickering, said: “I strongly welcome the new United Reformed Church policy to end investments in fossil fuels and increase investment in the clean technologies of the future. . . Together we can create a climate for real change.”

A separate proposal from the URC’s Investment Committee to disinvest only from fossil-fuel companies that had not achieved “clear progress toward developing their business” to align with the Paris agreement by the end of 2020, was rejected.

The URC youth co-moderator, representing 18- to 25-year-olds, Natalie Gibbs, said in a statement during the debate: “We believe that by divesting from fossil fuels we can support God’s creation on a scale that is now needed, given our planet’s fragile condition. It will be URC Youth members that have to live through and deal with this volatile future planet if change does not happen now.”

James Buchanan, of the Christian climate charity Operation Noah, said: “We are delighted that the United Reformed Church has decided to divest. This is a hugely positive response to the climate emergency. We hope many other Churches will join them in divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean alternatives.”

The chief executive of Christian Aid, Amanda Mukwashi, said: “To achieve climate justice, we need to ensure an extremely rapid transition out of the use of fossil fuels, and the onus must be on those whose emissions are historically the highest, to transition first and fastest. The Church needs to be at the forefront of putting our money where our mouth, and our heart, is.”

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