For Whom The Bell Tolls

Late last week the bells rang loudly from their lofty perches. This was not the tolling of ceremony or the declaration of something new and joyous in the world but a rising, melodic death knell for the fossil fuels era.

It’s been coming for a while. And so it must.

By teatime on Sunday the Church of England's General Synod voted overwhelmingly (247 to 4) to divest their investments (hundreds of millions) in the oil and gas industries by 2023.

More specifically they voted to do so if the companies they currently hold those investments in fail to take the steps required to enact a ‘Paris Agreement compatible strategy’ in the near future.

Or, to put it another way - If these companies don’t demonstrate to the Church of England that they’re serious about what the Paris Agreement demands, they will lose that investment.

Whatever your feelings about the church having these investments in the first place, this is a clear indication that the church is starting to use its financial clout to lead the way to a fossil free world.

As Archbishop Justin Welby put it,

"This vote puts the oil majors on notice, and strengthens the arm of those pushing the companies to move more quickly to a low carbon future. If oil companies continue to drag their heels, there is nothing to stop the church divesting earlier if they, or Synod, are not satisfied with the speed of change."

Tom Viita, our Head of UK Advocacy welcomed this development,

“This vote by the Church of England Synod shows that the bell is tolling for the fossil fuel era. As Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said last week, climate change is the great existential threat of our times, and today the church has backed up his words with a clear decision to pull its investments from fossil fuel companies that don't quickly align themselves with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

We are pleased that this resolution has been carried so convincingly, giving a firmer basis than previously for holding the National Investing Bodies to account, while allowing them time to demonstrate the hoped-for progress of their engagement strategy.”

Major oil and gas companies have not yet demonstrated to a satisfactory degree that they’re aligning their business practices with the demands of the Paris Agreement. It’s imperative that we, as Christians and consumers use whatever leverage we have to encourage them to do more.

The effects of climate change perpetuate poverty and, at a time when these effects are having an ever bigger impact on the lives of our global brothers and sisters, it’s encouraging to see the Church of England take these steps.

The bells are ringing louder now, can you hear them? Let’s hope so.