THE Church of England Pensions Board voted on Tuesday with the oil giant Shell to pass the company’s new energy transition plan. Under the plan, gas production would increase by 20 per cent.
The AGM vote took place on the same day as the International Energy Agency released a report that stated that the exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year if the world was to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — a goal of the Paris Agreement.
Shell’s new strategy, however, involves plans to seek out new fossil-fuel reserves for years to come. The company said: “We have attractive exploration opportunities in the first half of this decade.”
The Pensions Board said: “As a Pensions Board we have today supported the Energy Transition Strategy, not because we believe it is perfect, but it is the first phase of Shell’s transition over this crucial decade.”
It gave the company a deadline, however, for improvements to the plan. “The Church of England’s National Investment Bodies are committed to divesting from investments in fossil fuel companies by 2023 that are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.”
The Pensions Board had been urged by 39 African civil-society organisations to oppose Shell’s plan. In an open letter, they wrote: “We are extremely disappointed and concerned to see that the Church of England Pensions Board is lending its moral and financial authority to Shell, and plans to vote for Shell’s climate and energy plan at its 2021 Annual Meeting. We urge you to use all the tools available to you to encourage all parts of the Church of England to challenge Shell, rather than champion the corporation’s climate and energy plan.”
Earlier this week, institutions of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist denominations in 11 countries announced their disinvestment from fossil fuels. This includes the dioceses of Oxford and Bristol, and the Church in Wales, which has assets worth more than £700 million under management.
Joe Ware is Senior Climate Journalist at Christian Aid.