Divest Movement Grows With Church of England

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Despite the best efforts of a few misguided climate deniers, more and more congregations and faith groups around the world, like the half-billion strong World Council of Churches, are taking action to reduce their carbon emissions, save on their energy bills, and protect Creation from the devastating risks of climate change. And last Thursday, the Church of England became the newest member to divest from dirty fossil fuels.

The decision will take £12million from thermal coal and tar sands investments — two fossil fuels responsible for high carbon emissions, as well as habitat devastation, dirty water, and health impacts. And, according to Church officials, in the future it will not invest in companies that generate more than 10 percent of revenue from these energy sources.

It is all part of a larger goal to help the global community make the transition to a lower-carbon economy.

“Climate change is already a reality,” Rev. Canon Prof. Richard Burridge, deputy chair of the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said in a statement. “From an ethical perspective the focus of the investing bodies must be on assisting the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Some have argued that a carbon-focused economy is necessary to provide energy for the poor and protect investment portfolios. But this is false. Renewable energy, especially solar, is the easiest and cheapest way to power low-income communities. And the carbon bubble surrounding fossil fuel investments is stretching thinner as climate change activism grows stronger, demanding to leave fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

“Climate change is the most pressing moral issue in our world,” said Bishop Nick Holtam, the lead bishop on the environment at the Church of England. “[The decision] marks the start of a process of divestment as well as engagement with fossil fuel companies that better aligns the Church’s investment practice with its belief, theology and practice.”

The Church of England’s decision is not a surprise. As the mother church of the Anglican Communion — a group that has made climate action one of its core issues — the Church has considered dumping dirty investments for a while. Last year, former Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu called for a divestment campaign on fossil fuels to mirror the anti-apartheid movement.

“During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, using boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and supported by our friends overseas, we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure,” Tutu wrote in an article in The Guardian. “It is clear that those countries and companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money. They need a whole lot of gentle persuasion from the likes of us.”

And this year, on Good Friday, a group of bishops and archbishops representing the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, a body that promotes environmental concerns, published a pamphlet titled, “Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice.” In it, they argued that investments in fossil fuel companies were incompatible with a just and sustainable future.

“We accept the evidence of science concerning the contribution of human activity to the climate crisis and the disproportionate role played by fossil-fuel based economies,” they said. “Although climate scientists have for many years warned of the consequences of inaction there is an alarming lack of global agreement about the way forward …. For this reason the Church must urgently find its collective moral voice.”

Thankfully, the bishops’ prayer was answered and the Church of England found its moral voice in its wallet. We can only hope that other congregations and faith groups will find inspiration in their decision.

Photo by Cristian Roberti available on Flickr.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .