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Reform Magazine | November 16, 2018

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No more money for oil: Divest or engage? Part one

No more money for oil: Divest or engage? Part one

With climate experts announcing that we have 12 years to contain climate change, is it time for all Churches to stop investing in fossil fuel companies? asks Operation Noah’s James Buchanan. Next month, the United Reformed Church’s investors respond

What do New York City, the Royal College of GPs and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have in common? All three have made commitments to end their investments in fossil fuel companies.

Churches have long been at the forefront of ethical investment, excluding areas such as arms, tobacco and gambling from their financial portfolios. Yet, when Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign for fossil-free Churches was launched in 2013, the ethics of investment in fossil fuels had received little attention among most investors.

Since then, Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church National Synod of Scotland and the Church of Ireland have committed to full divestment from fossil fuels. However, most UK Churches continue to invest millions in oil and gas companies.

Both the Methodist Conference in 2017 and the Church of England General Synod in 2018 voted to support the principle of divestment from oil and gas companies whose business investment plans are at odds with the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.

The URC has investigated and debated the issues and took the positive step of divesting from coal and tar sands after the publication of its ethical investment guidelines in November 2015. Following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in October 2018, which emphasised the urgency of action required to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C, it seems a good moment for the URC to review its policy on engagement with oil and gas companies.

As Christians, our faith calls us to act on climate change out of love for our neighbours, especially for poor and marginalised people. We also have a responsibility to care for God’s creation …

James Buchanan is Bright Now Campaign Manager for Operation Noah. The campaign’s ‘Fossil Free Churches’ report is available online from www.brightnow.org.uk/transition-report. The ethical investment guidelines approved by the United Reformed Church in 2015 are available at bit.ly/URCinvest

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the November 2018 edition of  Reform

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