Thursday, May 21, 2015

Church of England Divests from Fossil Fuel

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A Church of England news release from April 30, 2015 announces that the Church of England will divest from some of their fossil fuel holdings. The release reads, in part,
The Church Commissioners and The Church of England Pensions Board have today announced the £12million divestment from thermal coal and tar sands.
From today neither body, nor the CBF Church of England funds, will make any direct investments in any company where more than 10% of its revenues are derived from the extraction of thermal coal or the production of oil from tar sands.
A Guardian report form May 1, 2015 confirms the action, quoting the Rev. Canon Richard Burridge as Deputy Chair of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group for the Church of England,
The church has a moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to climate change.
This move by the Church of England follows a 2013 move by the United Church of Christ to similarly divest from thermal coal and tar sands as well as make a commitment to invest only in “best in class” fossil fuel companies (to be in place by 2018). The United Methodist Church and several other smaller Christian organizations, churches, and colleges have made similar pledges. As a whole, these divestment moves have been widely welcomed by both climate change experts and charities that work in the world’s poorest regions. The same Guardian article quotess Christine Allen from Christian Aid,
The Church of England has effectively read the last rites to the coal and tar sands industry. The message must be heard loud and clear: they have no place in a sustainable future, and ultimately other fossil fuels don’t either.
Some of this new work by the Church of England (the divestment as well as new policies regarding climate change) can be traced to a Guardian op-ed piece penned by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in which the Archbishop calls for an “apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.” Archbishop Tutu recognizes a moral responsibility, as Christians and also as a human family, to address climate change:
People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies. We can demand that the advertisements of energy companies carry health warnings. We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry.   
So there is a move afoot to divest form fossil fuels. But is it the appropriate Christian response? Will it be successful or is it pointless?

Yossi Cadan of thinks it is “hugely important” for religious groups to divest because it adds the aura of moral authority – a credence of a moral argument. He maintains that it is not about the money…
…and not about the scale of investment, because most of these institutions have very little investments. It's about sending a signal and telling people [the fossil fuel industry is] immoral.
With another view, Mark Regier of the Mennonite investing arm Everence, sees this kind of full-scale divestment as pointless, unrealistic, and unhelpful:
You can't demonize them any more than they already are demonized. Everybody loves to hate oil companies … they're more interested in whether we use their products. We can protest all we want. As long as we stop at the gas station on the way, they're more than happy.
So, there it is. What do you think of the Church of England's move? What do think of Archbishop Tutu's call for boycott? Is divestment a good move or not? What say you?

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