The campaign for church divestment from companies with high emissions profiles through fossil fuels has scored a big hit, with the Church of England General Synod passing a motion on 12 February committing the Church to take more assertive steps in cutting carbon pollution by ‘engaging with the companies to encourage better treatment of the environment, investing in more renewable energy groups, and divesting from those with especially high emissions’.1
The campaign for divestment came to a head with the Diocese of Southwark passed a resolution last year, forcing the debate in General Synod. As late as January this year, the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) dismissed the idea claiming it would be too great a financial cost to completely retarget its 8 billion pound sterling investment portfolio. Following the motion at General Synod the EIAG agreed it would review its ethical investment policies, and revealed that the Church’s exposure to fossil fuels had already reduced by 62% on financial grounds since the divestment campaign began in 2010.
Christian environmental group Operation Noah commented:
‘Existing reserves of fossil fuels far exceed those which can be burned without the resulting pollution triggering catastrophic changes in the climate system. Yet oil, gas, and coal companies in which churches are invested continue to spend billions of dollars per year on developing new reserves of oil, coal and gas’.
In its 2012 document, The Ash Wednesday Declaration, Operation Noah asserts that care for the environment and being concerned about climate change are both fundamental to Christianity, and the Church’s core mission. It argued that creation is a gift and the ground of all worship. God’s creative love reveals a fundamental grounding of God’s own life in creation, and hence the flourishing of the earth and its future are foundational to the mission of God.2
The Church of England’s move comes after a concerted campaign by the environmental movement, 350.org, whose founder Bill McKibben is a committed Christian. In Australia, the NSW Synod of the Uniting Church voted last April to divest from all businesses engaged in the extraction of fossil fuels.3 Divestment campaigns are active in the Anglican Dioceses of Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, and in New Zealand the Diocese of Auckland voted to divest from the fossil fuel industry at its Synod in September last year.4