I wish I was an Anglican. Why? Because there’s an idea that could revolutionise the Anglican church and make it a leader as we look to the future. Not being an Anglican myself, though, means that I’m not in a position to do anything about this amazing idea.
Could you help?
Let me explain.
The Church of England currently has about £60 million invested in major fossil fuel companies (and the Methodist Church has nearly as much actually, if anyone reading this is from that particular denomination…). This is a major problem for two reasons:
Firstly: the moral and theological. As we all know, it is the burning of fossil fuels that is the main driver of climate change, which is already causing havoc around the world to both humans and the wider environment (look no further than the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan). Scientists predict horrendous suffering and almost unimaginable consequences if we continue along this path.
Known fossil fuel reserves are massively bigger than the total amount of carbon that can be burned without triggering climate catastrophe. To continue supporting companies whose main objective is to burn those fossil fuels is morally inexcusable and runs counter to the Church’s biblical mandate to be taking care of this world and all its inhabitants, both humans and the non-human creation.
Secondly, the financial. Traditionally, fossil fuel companies have been some of the safest companies in which to invest and have given the highest returns. However, in a situation in which such companies must leave most of their assets in the ground if we are to avert climate catastrophe, that changes.
As Sir Nicholas Stern put it in his governmental 2006 Review on the Economics of Climate Change: ‘Smart investors can already see that most fossil fuel reserves are essentially unburnable because of the need to reduce emissions… Investing in companies that rely solely or heavily on constantly replenishing reserves of fossil fuels is becoming a very risky decision’.
By contrast, renewable energy projects and companies are increasingly showing high investment returns, sometimes as much as 6 – 8%.
The Church of England has a duty to use and invest its finances in as responsible a way as possible. Divesting from fossil fuels and moving its money into renewable energy is a key way by which it can do that.
SO COME ON ALL YOU ANGLICANS OUT THERE! Can you imagine what would be communicated if your wing of the UK church took all £60 million out of fossil fuel companies and invested it in renewable energy projects, particularly those of a community nature?
The good news is that there are some changes afoot due to pressure being brought on the national investment bodies by Southwark Diocese and some tentative proposals being made by the C of E’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group around disinvesting by 2040 or 2050.
The bad news is that these go nowhere near far enough. We urgently need to transition to a low-carbon economy, but by continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies the Church of England simply maintains its image as a conservative institution that is afraid to make bold steps and be a leader.
Christians have historically influenced ethical investment as part of their mission and witness, such as in the South African disinvestment campaign under apartheid. Now there is the opportunity for the Church of England to act again and become a courageous leader and influencer in our world.
So what can you do?
1. Spread the word and tell as many people as possible about this issue, particularly those in the Church of England. The more people are talking about it, the more the C of E leadership will see that this is an important issue that we care about. Talk about it on FaceBook and Twitter and get others doing the same.
2. Sign up on the Bright Now website for updates and info. You could also work within your church community to bring a resolution on disinvestment forward in your Diocese, Methodist Circuit or similar body. This will strengthen any debates that will be held at General Synod or Methodist Conference.
(Many thanks to the Miles Litvinoff, who wrote Bright Now: towards fossil free Churches, from which much of the material here was drawn)
 You can read a useful summary of the latest research on climate change here: http://tinyurl.com/n4opo6q and the World Bank’s 2012 report is also well worth looking at: http://tinyurl.com/cstma62.
 For an eye-watering exposition of this fact, see http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719.
 For more detailed financial information and figures see, Bright Now: toward fossil free Churches, 8-9 (available from http://brightnow.org.uk).
 See, for example, http://tinyurl.com/pnmeg4s and, http://tinyurl.com/orydprf (I hope it’s obvious that this is not financial advise per se!).
Ah, but what if you were a Presbyterian…?
Some people would say that burning fossil fuels and wood is simply putting the carbon back where God put it in the first place, in the air. The naughty plants stole it! But the sunshine made them do it!
And some would say that God put fossil fuels in the ground for us to dig up and burn and hasten the return of the Lord 😉