THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF UNITARIAN AND FREE CHRISTIAN churches voted overwhelmingly at its online AGM on 24 April to disinvest from companies whose turnover from oil and gas is more than 10 per cent. The General Assembly has £6.3 million of investments, currently managed by Newton Investment Management

The motion was proposed by Stephen Lingwood, pioneer minister in Cardiff. He said “In the year of COP26 in Glasgow I’ve very happy that my denomination has made this commitment to help tackle the climate emergency. Divestment is one of the tools available to us to push the world towards a zero carbon future. My faith calls on me to love God, and to love my neighbour, and loving my global neighbour means making sure people in Pacific Island nations and elsewhere still have homes to live in. That will only happen if we keep global temperatures below a 1.5C rise.”

Also speaking in the debate was Professor Geoff Levermore, a Unitarian and Nobel prize winning climate scientist. He said “Some consider that we may already have gone past the tipping point with climate change, as the polar ice caps are losing ice so quickly now. Covid will be easier to solve than climate change and all countries need to respond, especially the developed ones. Fossil fuel companies, like water companies, should pay for the pollution of CO2 just as water companies pay for the sewage disposal.” Professor Levermore was part of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) working group that received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and is Emeritus Professor of the University of Manchester.

The resolution requests that the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches does not invest in companies whose total turnover is more than 10 per cent derived from the extraction and/or supply of fossil fuels, and that the divestment is fulfilled by 2025. It encourages Unitarian congregations, which are independent and autonomous, and other Unitarian funds to do the same.

The resolution builds on a long history of climate activism in the church, with previous agreements to tackle climate change and protect the environment going back to the 1970s. A number of Unitarian individuals and congregations have in recent years been actively involved in climate change campaigns such as Extinction Rebellion.

The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches is an association of congregations and societies that are committed to free and inquiring religion. Ministers and members practice their faith free from religious doctrine, using reason and conscience to discern their own spiritual path. There are 160 congregations in the UK, and each is independent and autonomous, governed by a committee elected by the congregation.

* Source: The Unitarians