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Church’s investing bodies separate greener wheat from oily tares

20 January 2022


Oil refinery operated by Exxon Mobil near Southampton

Oil refinery operated by Exxon Mobil near Southampton

THE Church of England’s national investing bodies (NIBs) are disinvesting from 28 high-carbon companies such as BP and placing them on a restricted list, preventing future investment, it was announced on Thursday.

The move is in line with a commitment made in 2018 to disengaging from companies that are not aligning with the Paris Agreement on reducing emissions by 2023. Additional hurdles will come into force this year and next, but the NIBs have concluded that companies such as BP, which used to be one of the Church Commissioners’ largest holdings, will not jump them.

The NIBs — the Commissioners, the C of E Pensions Board, and the CBF C of E Funds managed by CCLA Investment Management — pursue different policies. Neither the Pensions Board nor the CBF has any holdings in the restricted companies. The Commissioners, on the other hand, have worked proactively with other investors to change company policy in line with climate-change agreements.

The announcement made on Thursday of last week reports success with nine companies, including American Electric Power, which is now unrestricted again after making improvements in the past year.

The other unrestricted companies are: Adelaide Brighton (Adbri), Ecopetrol, Enbridge, Martin Marietta Materials, Nornickel, Occidental Petroleum, PGE, Severstal, and Suzano.

Three companies are under review — Equinor, Origin Energy, and Sasol — and are being engaged with “robustly”.

The full list of restricted companies is: BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, China Petroleum & Chemical, CNOOC, ConocoPhillips, Dangote Cement, Devon Energy, Eneos, ExxonMobil, Gazprom, Lukoil, Marathon Petroleum, NTPC, OMV, Petrobras, Petrochina, Phillips 66, Power Assets, PTT, Reliance Industries, Rosneft Oil, Santos, SK Innovation, Southern Copper, Teck Resources, Valero Energy, and Woodside Petroleum.

The Commissioners have made an exception with Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest energy company. Although it is now on the restricted list, disinvestment has been postponed after last year’s joint action with other investors through the transition pathway initiative forced changes on the companies board.

The head of responsible investment for the Commissioners, Bess Joffe, said on Thursday: “We are pleased that our engagement and activism with Exxon helped to replace 25 per cent of their board. . . We will hold Exxon shares for now to keep our seat at the table. This will give the new directors time to work with their board colleagues to bring about change and address the urgent climate crisis.”

This approach, she said, was in line with the Commissioners’ policy of engagement, maintained in the face of campaigns and protests in favour of disinvestment. “We want to achieve a net-zero world, not only a net-zero portfolio for the Church Commissioners.”

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