Epiphany Declaration: 20 Christian organisations divest from fossil fuels

Divest fossil fuel christian organisations

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Operation Noah is delighted to announce that 20 Christian organisations in the UK – including churches, dioceses, Synods and religious orders – have announced their divestment from fossil fuels as part of the Epiphany Declaration for Fossil Free Churches. 

The organisations involved express their desire to take practical action and send a message of hope at the start of 2020, a crucial year for climate action in the UK and around the world. They join the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, with the global total of assets divested now standing at over $12 trillion

Among those announcing their divestment commitments, there are some significant firsts. The Dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster are the first Catholic dioceses in England and Wales to divest from fossil fuels. Ivybridge Methodist Church and Stirling Methodist Church are the first local Methodist churches to commit to go fossil free.

Announcing the decision to divest, Bishop Terry Drainey, the Bishop of Middlesbrough, said: ‘With growing awareness of people’s concerns for the care of our common home, supported by the Trustees and Council of Priests of the Diocese, and after thorough scrutiny of diocesan investments and with support from Operation Noah, the Diocese of Middlesbrough has decided that now is the time to divest from fossil fuels. The evidence and the urgency of the climate crisis are all around us. However, as Pope Francis points out very clearly in his Encyclical Letter on The Care of Our Common Home, Laudato Si’, nothing will succeed if we do not begin with personal conversion, a change in lifestyle, a change of mindset.’

A key moment for Church divestment

While most UK Churches have divested from coal and tar sands, many continue to invest millions of pounds in oil and gas companies. The Church of England continues to invest more than £120 million in major oil companies including BP, Shell and ExxonMobil.

Following a motion passed at General Synod in July 2018, the Church of England is set to begin divestment in 2020 from oil and gas companies that are ‘not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy’ and to complete divestment from companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement targets by 2023.

Epworth Investment Management, an investment firm wholly owned by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, is planning to launch a new fund in early 2020 that will exclude investments in fossil fuel companies, following increased demand from clients. In recent months, CCLA Investment Management, which manages investments on behalf of many churches and charities, announced that its COIF Charities Ethical Investment Fund would complete divestment from fossil fuels by December 2019.

Climate action and divestment in 2020: why it matters

The announcement comes at the start of a vital year for climate action in the UK and globally. Last month, delegates from around the world met in Madrid for the UN climate summit (COP25), where UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the world is fast approaching the ‘point of no return’ on the climate crisis. The outcomes of COP25 are largely considered to have been disappointing and lacking in the major collective measures urgently needed to tackle the climate crisis.

In November 2020, the UK will host the UN climate talks for the first time, with COP26 taking place in Glasgow. In the lead up to COP26, environmental and civil society organisations hope to build on the momentum generated in the last year by climate protest movements such as Youth Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion.

Divestment is vital in the move to decarbonise our energy systems, and accelerate the urgently needed transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Last year, a Global Witness report showed that the global oil and gas industry plans to spend $5 trillion on the exploration and extraction of new reserves in the next decade. Following this, a Guardian report showed that Shell and Exxon alone are planning to increase production of oil and gas by 35% between 2018 and 2030 – the 12 years when global carbon emissions instead need to fall by 45% if we are to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

Could you get your local church or faith organisation to divest from fossil fuels? 

The next joint announcement, which Churches and Christian organisations of all denominations are invited to join, will be a global divestment announcement for faith institutions in late March 2020. Watch this space (or follow us on Twitter and Facebook) for further details!

Greenhouse worked last year with the Divest Parliament campaign, which seeks to encourage trustees of the £700 million Parliamentary Pension Fund to end investments in fossil fuel companies. As a result of media coverage in Bloomberg, Reuters, The Times and Evening Standard, Pension Fund trustee Richard Graham MP announced plans to consider investing in schemes “which take a greener approach”. At a time of political polarisation, the 300 MPs and 30 former MPs from across the political spectrum came together to make a clear statement, that it is “unacceptable for political leaders to be investing in fossil fuels at a time of climate breakdown”.

At Greenhouse, we support a wide variety of organisations pioneering climate action. Whether it’s fashion, finance or farming, if you’ve got a great story and need our help to tell it, get in touch with the Greenhouse team on 0117 214 1250 or email info@greenhousepr.co.uk.