General Synod: Campaigners Urge Church Of England To Divest From Fossil Fuel Companies
The group, from Christian Climate Action (CCA,) were highlighting how Church Commissioners’ funds are invested in energy companies such as Shell and BP.
The group dropped a protest banner  from the public gallery and held a prayer rally outside Church House demanding the Church to pull its investments from fossil fuel companies.
The protest, days before Global Divestment Day, comes after the it was revealed that Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the world’s richest sovereign wealth fund worth £556bn, removed 32 coal mining companies from its portfolio in 2014, citing the risk they face from regulatory action on climate change.
Holly Peterson, from CCA said: ‘Fossil fuel companies cannot continue with ‘business as usual’ if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“If the Church believes in ethical investment and cares about the impacts of climate change on people and planet then why do they still invest in fossil fuels? They are not practising what they preach.
“We are calling on the Church of England to show courageous leadership and take action now by moving their investments. This is the only way to send a clear message that the continued extraction of fossil fuels is no longer morally acceptable.”
Two thirds of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, yet companies such as Shell and BP planning to extract all of their reserves and explore new ones.
A crowd of 50 Christians gathered for the prayer rally carrying candles in green glass jars and banners calling on the Church to divest. Earlier in the day, members of Operation Noah, SPEAK and CCA delivered a Valentine’s Day card to the Church of England and Methodist Church containing messages from Christians asking the Churches to show their love for Creation by breaking up with the fossil fuel industry.
Hundreds of events are now planned worldwide for Global Divestment Day in 48 countries spanning six continents. In the UK rallies and protests are planned in major cities including London, Bristol, Oxford, Nottingham, Swansea and Edinburgh.
Last week Operation Noah published a paper with contributions from a number of Christian theologians and scientists including Revd Prof. Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics in the School of Divinity from University of Edinburgh and Bill McKibben, Founder and Senior Advisor of 350.org, reflecting that it is unethical to invest in fossil fuels.
Rev. Rupert Martin of Sandal Magna parish, said, ‘We need to be leaders in our response to the threat of climate change and the impacts it will have on the poorest and most vulnerable across the world.
“The Church must stop investing in fossil fuel companies immediately as part of its ethical investments policy.”
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Notes to editors
 The banner was dropped after the Synod held a debate on the issue of ‘inter-generational equity.’ The banner read:
‘As a church community, we cannot continue to invest in fossil fuel companies. So we ask you, on our behalf, to divest now.’
 Public Health England (PHE). (2014) PHE-CRCE-010: Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution. http://www.thehealthwell.info/node/756717 Website here.
Operation Noah’s paper on the ethics of divestment can be found here.
Currently the Church of England holds over £60 million in fossil fuel investments and the Methodist Church has £58 million invested in major fossil fuel companies (figures from 2012). In 2014, six Methodist Circuits and Districts (regional areas) brought Memorials (resolutions) to national Methodist conference, four of which called for divestment. In November 2014 the Diocese of Oxford passed a resolution calling on the Church of England to divest; this will be debated at General Synod later this year. The investment advisory bodies for both the Church of England and the Methodist Church are currently reviewing their investments in fossil fuels and are due to report back in 2015.
Over the last 18 months, the Church of Sweden, the World Council of Churches, Quakers in Britain, Uniting Church in Australia, Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, United Church of Christ (US), Brighthelm URC Church in the UK, 5 Dioceses in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and 3 Anglican Dioceses in Australia have divested from fossil fuels! The Anglican Church in Australia passed a motion in July 2014 recommending divestment to all its member Churches.
The Church of Sweden holds similar size investments to the Church of England and has made its $691 million in assets fossil-free
The total number of local and national Churches that have divested is now at 49
So far 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. In the UK this includes the British Medical Association, Oxford City Council, the University of Glasgow and Quakers in Britain. Recent commitments include the US Rockefeller Brothers Fund -an $860 million fund – and Second AP Fund, a national pension fund in Sweden that has just divested $161 million from coal, oil and gas companies.
Since January 2014 the number of commitments has doubled. The number of philanthropic organisations divesting has risen to 71, representing more than $4.2 billion in divested investments. 85% pledgers have made a commitment to invest in clean technology solutions over the next 5 years.
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