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Church of England announces major fossil fuels disinvestment plan over climate change failure

Posted on: June 22, 2023 2:19 PM
A Shell-owned offshore drilling rig in the Braugen Field off Norway. Shell is one of a number of companies targetted for disinvestment by Church of England finance bodies
Photo Credit: Jan-Rune Smenes Reite / Pexels

Two of the Church of England’s national investment bodies have announced plans to disinvest from a large number of fossil fuels companies over their failure to align with climate goals.

The Church Commissioners for England, which manages history legacies valued at £10.3 billion GBP, had already excluded 20 oil and gas majors. It has said today that it will now also disinvest from BP, Ecopetrol, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, Pemex, Repsol, Sasol, Shell, and Total, after concluding that none are aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, as assessed by the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI).

It has also announced that it will exclude all other companies primarily engaged in the exploration, production and refining of oil or gas, unless they are in genuine alignment with a 1.5°C pathway, by the end of 2023.

In a simultaneous announcement, the Church of England Pensions Board, which has investments in excess of £50 million GBP, announced its intention to disinvest from Shell plc and other oil and gas companies which are failing to show sufficient ambition to decarbonise in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement.

The Pensions Board said it will no longer prioritise engagement with the oil and gas sector on climate change and will instead refocus its efforts on reshaping the demand for oil and gas from key sectors such as the automotive industry.

“Today we announce our intention to disinvest from all remaining oil and gas holdings across our equity and debt portfolio,” the Chief Executive Officer of the Church of England Pensions Board, Mr John Ball, said. “There is a significant misalignment between the long term interests of our pension fund and continued investment in companies seeking short term profit maximisation at the expense of the ambition needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Recent reversals of previous commitments, most notably by BP and Shell, has undermined confidence in the sector’s ability to transition”.

Speaking for the Church Commissioners, the First Church Estates Commissioner, Mr Alan Smith, said: “The decision to disinvest was not taken lightly. Soberingly, the energy majors have not listened to significant voices in the societies and markets they serve and are not moving quickly enough on the transition. If any of these energy companies come into alignment with our criteria in the future, we would reconsider our position. Indeed, that is something we would hope for.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is the Chair of the Church Commissioners. Responding to today’s announcement he said: “the climate crisis threatens the planet we live on, and people around the world who Jesus Christ calls us to love as our neighbours. It is our duty to protect God’s creation, and energy companies have a special responsibility to help us achieve the just transition to the low carbon economy we need.

“We have long urged companies to take climate change seriously, and specifically to align with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and pursue efforts to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In practical terms that means phasing out fossil fuels, investing in renewables, and plotting a credible path to a net zero world. Some progress has been made, but not nearly enough. The Church will follow not just the science, but our faith – both of which call us to work for climate justice.”

In February, the Anglican Consultative Council asked the Secretary General, Bishop Anthony Poggo, to sign up to an international campaign for a global treaty to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition powered by clean energy and a sustainable future for all.

Bishop Anthony signed the campaign’s faith leaders’ letter last month during a visit to the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean. He said at the time: “throughout the world, inspired by stories of Anglicans living in the most vulnerable states, Anglicans are active in direct action to protect the environment and also in lobbying governments and inter-governmental bodies. In doing so, we are protecting the Earth that the Lord has made.”

The Anglican Consultative Council members also encouraged primates and bishops to sign the faith leaders’ letter on behalf of the Churches and dioceses of the Communion and to advocate to their governments to halt new gas and oil exploration.