New report: Operation Noah calls on churches to divest from fossil fuels

By agency reporter
September 20, 2013

Almost out of three (63 per cent) Anglicans believe the Church of England should take a lead role in addressing the issue of man-made climate change but, according to a new survey, only one in four believes the C of E should disinvest in companies seeking expansion in fossil fuel reserves.

More than nine out of 10 church goers of all denominations say churches should invest their money ethically but a significant proportion remain confused about what this means in relation to disinvestment.

These are among the intriguing results of the survey conducted for the ecumenical climate change pressure group Operation Noah (ON).

They come at a time when two of the Church of of England's top five corporate investments are in BP (£22.4 million) and Shell (£37.8 million), companies seeking massive expansion in fossil fuel reserves. Church investments in many areas are currently under increased scrutiny on ethical grounds.

"There is a clear gap between official church policy on climate change and church investments in fossil fuel companies,' explained Mark Letcher, head of Operation Noah’s new disinvestment campaign Bright Now.

He continued, "But church leaders are living in a fool's paradise if they think they can meet their policy commitments to preventing catastrophic changes to the climate system whilst investing in companies seeking expansion in fossil fuel reserves."

Other denominations also have large amounts invested in the fossil fuel industry.

The full survey, carried out by Christian Research and completed by 1520 church goers across the denominations, reveals that churchgoers want to see ethical investments yet the majority do not see climate change as a key issue. The survey reveals that twice as many church goers of all denominations see issues surrounding female bishops, for example, higher up the agenda for action than climate change.

"We believe Christians should start debating climate change with the same intensity and scrutiny they give to issues such as freedom of speech or same-sex marriage,' said Operation Noah chair Isabel Carter.

"Climate change is a social justice issue and as such should deeply concern all Christians.

'The discrepancy is shown in our survey between the number of Christians who want the Church of England to lead on climate change and those who want divestment. This clearly highlights the need for leadership on this issue and is why we will be working with churches to initiate a national debate on this issue.'

Operation Noah will launch their campaign Bright Now: towards fossil free Churches on Friday 20th September 11.30am to 1pm in Central London.

ON is calling on the churches and Christian community to:

- disinvest from companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels

- take a leading and influential role in the national debate on the ethics of investment in fossil fuels

- support the development of clean alternatives to fossil fuels through their investment policies

Leaders representing most of the UK's mainstream churches called for repentance last year over the prevailing 'shrug-culture' towards climate change.

Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury; the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London; the Most Rev Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales; and leaders of the Methodist, Baptist and URC churches were among those signing Operation Noah's Ash Wednesday Declaration.

"We must live out our faith in relation to our damaging consumer economy, over-dependence on fossil fuels and the devastation we, as a species, are inflicting on God's world," said David Atkinson, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark. "We believe that responsible care for God's creation is foundational to the Gospel and central to the church's mission."

Operation Noah has produced a report 'Bright Now: towards fossil fuel churches', which sets out the moral, theological, scientific, financial and practical case for churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies, and examines why they must actively seek to support clean, alternative forms of energy generation through their investment portfolios.


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