Methodists to use investments to fight climate change

By staff writers
December 3, 2009

The Methodist Church has announced that it is aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of its investment portfolios with a new investment policy on climate change ahead of Copenhagen Summit.

The Methodist Church’s investment arm has outlined how its investments reflect Methodist teaching on the environment and take forward the fight against climate change.

It aims to "create and manage portfolios with a carbon footprint that is relatively low and measurably declining."

The Church currently has substantial investments in oil and mining companies, many of which have been criticised by campaigners for their environmental impact.

"The new policy explains how we will encourage companies to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Bill Seddon, Chief Executive of the Central Finance Board (CFB) of the Methodist Church. "We will also look for better disclosure of emissions, including those produced from a company’s supply chains.

"We are now looking for action to accelerate the reduction of those emissions," said Mr Seddon.

The policy builds on the CFB’s work on climate change over many years. It has long been a signatory of the Climate Disclosure Project, is a founder member of the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change and works with other churches through the Church Investors Group.

The Church says it regularly asks companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions. However, over 20 per cent of its equity portfolio is currently in oil and gas companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, condemned in a recent report by Amnesty International for its environmental destruction in the Nile Delta.

It also has investments in mining companies Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Billiton. Campaigners say that mining is one of the most polluting industries in the world, having a disproportionately negative impact on marine-dependent and land-based communities, especially indigenous peoples, and is frequently associated with forced evictions, militarisation, conflict and human rights abuses including extra-judicial killings.

BHP Billiton in particular has faced allegations of human rights abuses and widespread environmental destruction. The campaigning group, London Mining Network, recently published an ‘alternative report’ into its activities. It outlined the negative impact of many of the company’s operations – in Australia, West Papua, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Colombia and Chile.

The new policy is aimed at integrating church investing with church teaching, most recently expressed in a report entitled ‘Hope in God’s future’.

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Church Policy Adviser, welcomed the CFB’s approach: "We are delighted that the CFB has adopted this policy. Climate change threatens to cause irreversible damage to the planet’s eco-system, causing suffering to millions of people over the coming decades.

"It is vital that governments commit to massively reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen Summit, but we should not just leave it to them. We can all play a part and companies also have a responsibility to act. With this policy, the church will also be making its voice heard in boardrooms."

"We know we will not always get it right," said Mr Seddon, but the Methodist Church will always seek to act as a responsible investor."

More detailed information about the Methodist and C of E investments with regard to climate change can be found here

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