Church of Sweden ditches fossil fuel investments

By staff writers
September 24, 2014

After hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York, London and other cities across the globe this weekend to call for a global deal on climate change, the Church of Sweden has become the latest national Church to eliminate fossil fuels from its investment portfolio.

The Church of Sweden announced this week that it has removed gas companies from its portfolio, building on an earlier decision to divest from coal and oil. In doing so, it will make its $691 million of assets fossil-free.

One of the first institutions to take up divestment, the Church of Sweden now believes investments in fossil fuel companies are a risk in financial as well as ethical, social and environmental terms.

“We see a financial risk in owning fossil fuel companies,” explained Gunnela Hahn, the Church's Head of Responsible Investment “Their value consists to a large extent of fossil fuel reserves that risk losing value since they cannot be extracted if we are to have a liveable planet”.

The Church of Sweden, which is Lutheran, tends to be regarded as Sweden's national church, although it was formally disestablished in 2000.

The decision came as world faith leaders gathered in New York for an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change. Representatives from 21 countries on six continents delivered a letter to the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN at the UN Climate Summit, calling on governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and divest from or cap coal immediately.

The decision in Sweden will add to the growing pressure on churches elsewhere to divest from fossil fuels. In the UK, the Christian environmental charity Operation Noah reiterated its calls for British churches to become fossil-free.

Operation Noah's Ellie Roberts said, “The Church of Sweden’s decision to disinvest increases the pressure on the Methodist Church and Church of England, both of which retain large holdings in fossil fuel companies, to join the growing list of fossil-free churches.”

This list now includes the Uniting Church in Australia, the United Church of Christ in the US, six New Zealand Anglican dioceses and the Quakers in Britain.

Speaking shortly after the announcement, the Rev Dr Darrell Hannah, Rector of All Saints' Church, Ascot Heath – part of the Church of England, said, “I hope the Church of England and other denominations in the UK will heed the call of the Swedish Church and the World Council of Churches”.

He added, “In particular, I call on the General Synod of the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels as soon as possible. If the Church is to be faithful to its calling, it really needs to be in the vanguard of this movement.”

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