Operation Noah challenges Church investors on fossil fuels

By agency reporter
November 26, 2013

In a challenge to bodies advising and managing Church investments, Operation Noah called today (26 November) on UK Churches to follow the lead of the Quakers and end the policy of engagement with fossil fuel companies with whom they hold multimillion pound investments.

Responding to a statement from the Church Investors Group (CIG), Operation Noah argues that engagement is no longer appropriate in the light of scientific evidence on climate change, the failure of the COP talks in Poland to make significant forward progress, and massive investment by oil, coal and gas companies to develop new fossil fuel assets. The time has come for Churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP, the charity said today.

"The long held policy of engagement with companies with whom Churches hold investments has achieved many things', said Mark Letcher, Coordinator of Bright Now, Operation Noah's campaign calling for disinvestment. "But what it has never managed to do is to change the entire raison d'être of a business. That's why Churches choose not to invest in tobacco, gambling or pornography.

"Companies such as BP and Shell know only too well that existing reserves of fossil fuels already exceed many times the global carbon budget for holding the average global temperature rise to two degrees C. Yet they continue to invest billions of dollars a year in developing new fossil fuel assets, and give no indication whatsoever of changing their current business model."

Today's announcement follows a statement from the Church Investors Group, issued in response to the launch of Bright Now and other disinvestment campaigns. In it, the CIG cautioned against "over-simplifying climate change as an ethical investment issue".

But speaking today, Mark Letcher said, "At the heart of this debate are some basic facts. We know that changes to the atmosphere and the oceans are directly related to the quantity of greenhouse gases they absorb. And that burning fossil fuels releases a vast volume of this greenhouse gas pollution. It is clear that the fossil fuel sector is intent on finding, and developing new fossil fuel assets with the intention of burning these, despite stark warnings from scientists that we need to do the opposite. There is nothing to suggest that a policy of engagement will persuade companies to change tack now when it has failed to do so to date."

Operation Noah's campaign 'Bright Now: towards fossil free Churches' was launched in September this year and is calling on UK Churches to do three things:
- 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.

Pressure on Churches in the UK to reconsider their current position on investments in the fossil fuel sector continues to grow. In September, the Synod of the Diocese of Southwark passed a motion for the Church of England's General Synod calling upon the national investing bodies to ensure that their investment policy (including the option of disinvestment) is aligned with the theological, moral and social priorities of the Church. Further resolutions on disinvestment are now in preparation in other dioceses.

Meanwhile, Quakers in Britain announced in October that they are to divest from fossil fuel extraction.


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