The Church of England has a major investment in an oil company which has given hundreds of thousands of pounds to lobby groups who have published 'misleading and inaccurate information' about climate change.
The revelation comes less than 48 hours after the spotlight was put the Church of England's investment in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Campaigners launched legal action after RBS was linked to climate change and human rights violations.
It has now been revealed that Exxon Mobil, in which the Church of England has an even bigger shareholding valued at £17.2 million, is continuing to fund lobby groups which question the reality of global warming, despite a public pledge to cut support for such climate change denial.
The Guardian newspaper reports that company records show Exxon Mobil handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to such lobby groups in 2008. These include the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas, which received $75,000 (£45,500) and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, which received $50,000.
Both the NCPA and the Heritage Foundation have published "misleading and inaccurate information about climate change" according to Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.
The NCPA says: "NCPA scholars believe that while the causes and consequences of the earth's current warming trend is [sic] still unknown, the cost of actions to substantially reduce CO2 emissions would be quite high and result in economic decline, accelerated environmental destruction, and do little or nothing to prevent global warming regardless of its cause."
In its 2008 corporate citizenship report, published last year, Exxon Mobil said it would cut funds to several groups that "divert attention" from the need to find new sources of clean energy.
The NCPA and Heritage Foundation are included among groups funded by Exxon Mobil, according to details of its "2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments" published recently.
In 2006, Ward, then at the Royal Society, wrote to Exxon Mobil to challenge the company's funding of such lobby groups. The move, revealed in the Guardian, prompted accusations of censorship and debate about whether experts should "police" the distribution of scientific information.
In an article on the Guardian website, Ward writes: "I have now written again to Exxon Mobil to point out that these organisations publish misleading information about climate change on their websites and to seek guidance on how to reconcile this fact with the pledge made by the company. I believe that the company should keep its promise by ending its financial support for lobby groups that mislead the public about climate change."
This will be a huge embarrassment for the Church of England. Last month a senior bishop and a government minister spelled out the importance of the Church of England’s role in mobilising action on climate change, as its Shrinking the Footprint campaign unveiled energy saving toolkits for every parish in a bid to create the ‘20 per cent Church’ by 2050.
The Church has come under repeated criticism for not investing its £5 billion assets in a greener manner. At a time when others are investing in 'green' funds, the Church’s two biggest shareholdings, having a combined value of £200 million, are both in oil companies.
The Church also invests heavily in a number of mining companies which are causing environmental devastation. This has been highlighted by campaigners both inside and outside the Church.
During the last decade, the Church's other major investment decisions have involved pulling out of social housing in favour of several large out-of- town retail parks. Green campaigners have suggested that these encourage people to make longer car journeys, thus increasing carbon emissions.