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THE CHURCH COMMISSIONERS for the Church of England are looking to develop a net zero carbon strategy for its land investments as they seek to deliver on a ‘Respect for the Planet’ responsible investment strategy.

The Church Commissioners say they regularly assess their £9.2 billion endowment for environmental impact to deliver on its responsible investment strategy announced earlier this year.

The Church Commissioners have worked with environmental investment consultants to identify the carbon emissions, sequestration and natural capital profile of its rural, strategic land and timber investment portfolios, which account for about 15 per cent of the fund.

The investment team will now begin developing a net zero strategy for these assets that will leverage and protect natural capital and encourage collaboration with tenants in particular as relevant stakeholder groups.

The protection of biodiversity is a priority, the Church Commissioners say, and was a key area highlighted in their  new responsible investment strategy, as outlined in its first sustainability report published in June 2021. Its approach to natural capital and climate change includes creating a coalition of investors seeking to engage major public companies on nature loss and  achieving net zero by 2050 across its investment portfolio, including its land assets.

Harry Ashman, Engagement Analyst at the Church Commissioners, recently spoke with Environmental Finance about the Commissioners’ approach and on steps they are taking to target biodiversity loss. He commented: “It is part of our efforts to ensure the biodiversity crisis is treated alongside and with as much urgency as the climate crisis.”

Mr Ashman added: “Since the industrial revolution, society has been on a steady march towards forgetting that we are utterly reliant upon nature to survive and thrive. We must understand how ecosystem services can be a driver of value and positive impact.”

The Church Commissioners say they are committed to operationally meet a 2030 net zero target, in line with the goals set by the Church of England General Synod, and also support the transition of the real economy to be net zero by 2050.

In 2020 the Commissioners committed to having a net zero investment portfolio by 2050, noting that to create real world change, whole sectors have to be supported through a major transition.

However, environmental analysts and  campaigners have been saying for some time that 2050 (the UK Government’s target date) is too late for the urgent change needed, and that ‘net zero’ is only part of the journey required, and insufficient in itself.

* The Church Commissioners are a body which administers the property assets of the Church of England. They are a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission for England and Wales. There are 33 Church Commissioners, of whom 27 make up the Board of Governors as the main policy-making body, with a further six being Officers of State or UK Government ministers. Board Members are either elected by the General Synod of the Church of England (its governing body), or appointed by either the Archbishops of Canterbury and York or by the Crown, under which the Church is Established.

* Sources: Church of England, Forbes magazine, The Conversation.