THE question whether the Methodist Church will disinvest from its holdings in fossil-fuel companies will be put to the Methodist Council, after a vote was carried by the Methodist Conference on Tuesday during its online meeting.
The motion was put forward by a member of the Methodist Youth Assembly, Martha Rand. She argued that the Church’s investors were in breach of requirements set out by a Conference vote in 2017 to disinvest, by 2020, from fossil-fuel companies that had “not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below two degrees”.
Ms Rand said that a report by the Church’s Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI), earlier this year, argued that that companies deemed “close to aligned” should still be invested in. “But being ‘close to aligned’ with the Paris Agreement is not what the 2017 Conference voted for,” she said.
The Transition Pathway Initiative, a project launched by the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies and supported by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, recently reported that no fossil-fuel companies were aligned with limiting global average temperature rises to well below 2°C, or even to 2°C (News, 22 May).
The motion was seconded by the former chairman of the JACEI, the Revd John Howard. He said that the argument for further engagement with the fossil-fuel companies was now outdated. “Even five years ago, I would have wanted to do everything we could with engagement. But the process now is one in which we really need greater urgency.
“As a Christian, I understand my moral responsibility to care for God’s beautiful creation. To consciously say that, to protect my comfort, I am willing to see God’s creation desecrated, is surely blasphemy.”
The motion was carried, but with an amendment for the final decision to be taken by the Methodist Council. Ms Rand was invited to address it as a member of the Church’s Youth Assembly at its next meeting.
A letter calling for fossil-fuel disinvestment had been signed by a group of 260 Methodists, including 114 ministers as well as previous Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Methodist Conference. The calls have also extended beyond Methodism. In a recent report by the charity Operation Noah, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, who chairs Christian Aid, said: “The current health crisis has highlighted as never before the need for coherent international action in the face of global threat.
“Can we learn the lesson and apply it to the global threat of climate change? To do so means taking practical and effective steps to reduce our lethal dependence on fossil fuels, and this report challenges the Churches to take these steps as a matter of urgency.”
The manager of Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign, James Buchanan, urged the Methodist Council to heed the calls from the Church’s young people: “The climate emergency cannot wait. When the issue is considered by Methodist Council, the Methodist Church has a unique opportunity to support a green recovery from Covid-19 by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in the clean technologies of the future. It is clear that no oil and gas companies are aligned with the Paris agreement.”