Church of England divests and stops investments in oil and gas companies

Church of England divests and stops investments in oil and gas companies

Ecojesuit shares the statement Church Commissioners for England to exclude oil and gas companies over failure to align with climate goals released on 22 June 2023. On 16 June, more than 200 retired and active clergy in the Church of England, including 10 bishops, signed an open letter to the Pensions Board and Church Commissioners and called on the National Investing Bodies to divest from all fossil fuel companies. “As the climate crisis deepens, divesting clergy pensions from fossil fuels is a matter of conscience and one that the Pensions Board must now urgently address. No company planning to extract new oil and gas can possibly be in compliance with the Paris Agreement, which is aimed at limiting global heating to 1.5ºC – a goal that can only be achieved if emissions are nearly halved by 2030.”

The Church Commissioners for England, which manages the Church of England’s £10.3bn endowment fund, has decided to exclude all remaining oil and gas majors from its portfolio, and 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 2021, the Church Commissioners excluded 20 oil and gas majors from its investment portfolio. It is now also excluding 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).

“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,” said the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chair of the Church Commissioners for England.

“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.”

“The decision to disinvest was not taken lightly,” said Alan Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner. “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 Church of England’s National Investing Bodies (NIBs) have long actively engaged with fossil fuel companies to encourage meaningful change. In 2018, the General Synod passed a motion agreeing a timeline for the NIBs to disinvest from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the short, medium, and long term goals of the Paris Climate Agreement by the end of 2023.

The implementation of that motion focused on the world’s largest oil and gas companies. With the 2021 exclusions and those announced today, the Church Commissioners will have excluded all oil and gas majors. The broader exclusion of all oil and gas exploration, production and refining companies will follow by the end of 2023.

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