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Church sets 2050 net zero target for companies

22 January 2020


Climate change protestors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on Tuesday

Climate change protestors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on Tuesday

THE Church of England’s national bodies will invest only in companies working towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it was announced on Wednesday.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Church’s three National Investing Bodies (NIBs) joined the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, adding their £12 billion of assets to the almost $4 trillion alliance.

The chief executive of the Church Commissioners, Andrew Brown, said in a statement: “As part of our commitment to the Paris Agreement, the Church Commissioners are pleased formally to state our commitment to transition our investment portfolio to net zero emissions by 2050.

“We urge all governments, investors and companies also to commit to net zero 2050 to address the climate emergency.”

The Government has already set a target for the UK to be net zero by 2050. This is the latest move in ethical investment by the Church’s investment bodies (News, 24 May 2019).

In a press release published on Wednesday, the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance said that they had three main aims for 2020: “Advancing its measurement and public reporting; engaging with portfolio companies on a net-zero target; and engaging policymakers towards policies supportive of net-zero economy ambitions.”

Mr Brown said: “Climate change is the challenge of our age. The 2020s are the decade in which we need to make decisive progress, both halting the growth in global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions and setting the world on course to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

He will be stepping down from his post as chief executive of the Commissioners at the end of the month (News, 14 June), and will be replaced by Gareth Mostyn (News, 25 October).

The two other investment bodies that make up the NIBs are the Church of England Pensions Board and CBF Church of England Funds.

The CEO of the Pensions Board, John Ball, said: “To deliver a net-zero commitment, it is essential that there is a credible framework for asset owners that enables us to deliver across all our asset classes — not just listed equities. As co-chairs of the Transition Pathway Initiative [TPI], we believe there is also an important role for such asset-owner created tools as TPI to aid us in delivery of our goals.

“Our beneficiaries’ long-term interests are best served by a world that is not impacted by the extremes of climate change and as such we are already aligning our fund to the Paris goals and developing a passive index that aligns to this objective.”

The TPI is an online data-analysis tool created by the NBIs for investors to assess how effectively companies are addressing climate change (News, 13 January 2017).

Peter Hugh Smith, chief executive of the CCLA, on behalf of the CBF Church of England Funds, said: “As Christian investors, our unit holders have more than a fiduciary duty to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and expect their money to be managed in a way that is at the forefront of best practice.

“We are pleased to support the UN Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance and, in this important year for climate action, call upon all investors to stand up and push for the change that we need to see”

Other members of the alliance include Allianz, AXA, and Aviva. The group held a meeting with about 50 portfolio companies in Davos on Wednesday.

The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative, Eric Usher, said: “All alliance members are showing an extremely high level of commitment to portfolio decarbonisation, as they hold themselves accountable on progress by setting and publicly reporting on intermediate targets in line with the Paris Agreement.”

At a two-day conference in Geneva this week, FaithInvest: Impactful Cooperation, asset managers, members of the clergy, and representatives of development organisations discussed how “investments [can] become more consistent with . . . Christian values and have a positive impact on development,” a press release said.

The conference was sponsored by the Geneva Agape Foundation, the World Council of Churches, and FaithInvest, a non-profit group based in the UK.

Climate-threat asylum. The United Nations Human Rights Committee said on Monday that countries should take into account climate-related threats when considering deportation cases.

The Committee issued a ruling in the case of Ioane Teitiota, whose home country of Kiribati is threatened by rising sea levels, sought asylum in New Zealand, but was then deported.

Amnesty International said in a statement: “While the Committee found that Teitiota’s deportation had not been unlawful because he didn’t face an immediate danger to his life in Kiribati, it recognised that climate change represented a serious threat to the right to life and therefore decision-makers need to take this into account when examining challenges to deportation.

“The Committee’s decision suggests that future claims might be successful where the evidence shows ‘the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to a violation of their rights’.”

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