The Church of England has committed to divesting from two of the most polluting fossil fuels, thermal coal and tar sands. The organisation argues the Church has a “moral responsibility” to assist in the transition to the low-carbon economy.
The religious institution will no longer make any direct investments in any company that derives more than 10% of its revenue from the extraction or the production of thermal coal or tar sands. The announcement coincides with the adoption of a new climate change policy recommended by the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).
The decision follows the Church of England reducing its exposure to ‘sin stocks’, such as tobacco, gambling and high rate interest lending, last year after a review of its ethical investment strategy.
The Reverend Canon Professor Richard Burridge, deputy chair of the EIAG, commented, “Climate change is already a reality. From an ethical perspective the focus on the investing bodies must be on assisting the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“The Church has a moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world’s poor who are the most vulnerable to climate change. This responsibility encompasses not only the Church’s own work to reduce our own carbon footprint, but also how the Church’s money is invested and how we engage with companies on this vital issue.”
Bishop Nick Holtam, the lead Bishop on the environment at the Church of England, added that the announcement marks the start of a process of divestment and engagement with fossil fuel companies in order to better align the Church’s investments with its beliefs.
In response to the divestment news, Ray Dhirani, corporate stewardship manager on sustainable finance at WWF-UK, said, “WWF welcomes the leadership from the Church of England in selling its shares in coal and tar sands. The writing has been on the wall for so long and it is time for everyone to take the initiative and do what they can to combat climate change, which is the single biggest challenge to people and nature.”
He added, “Divestment address the urgency of the issue and opens up the political space needed for meaningful action around climate change.”
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