The Church of England has warned it could withdraw its investments from BP and Shell unless the oil giants take greater action to tackle climate change.
In a significant boost to the growing “divestment” campaign that has spread from the US. the Church has become the first mainstream religious organisation in the UK to raise the prospect of severing ties with fossil fuel companies because of global warming.
The Church, which has tens of millions of pounds invested in both BP and Shell, says it’s targeting the two companies because they have the biggest carbon footprints in the UK.
It plans to put pressure on them to become greener through a “shareholder resolution” – a formal call by investors to take action.
“The shareholder resolutions are intended to challenge the companies to run their businesses so that they participate constructively in the transition to a low carbon economy,” said Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners, responsible for the COE fund.
He wants BP and Shell to take greater action to tackle the threat of global warming and link executive pay more closely to “environmental and social metrics”, arguing that big oil companies like them are not operating in a way that is viable in the long term if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
The Church of England stresses that it is keen to work with the companies to become more environmentally-friendly rather than simply sell out of them, because, it says, this is the best way to effect change. The Church has a total investment portfolio or around £9 billion.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
However, a spokesman for the Church told The Independent that divestment is “always an option” and would be “considered as a final resort if companies our unresponsive to our concerns”.
In 2010, the Church pulled its investments from mining group Vedanta over an alumina refinery in the Indian state of Orissa and a planned bauxite mine nearby.
In 2012, it sold its stake in News International after a year of discussions in the wake of the phone hacking allegations failed to convince it that the publishing group now known as News UK was committed to implementing “necessary corporate governance reform”.
The movement for organisations -particularly pension funds - to divest from fossil fuels has grown rapidly since it was set up three years ago. More than 700 institutions around the world controlling about £30bn of assets have now pledged not to invest in companies seen to fuel global warming. British organisations who have divested include the British Medical Association, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Glasgow University and the Quakers.
BP said of the Church of England’s action: “We will carefully consider it and respond appropriately before the AGM in April.”
A Shell spokesman declined to comment. However, in September, the company’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said: “We are preparing for increasingly robust legislation on emissions. And we understand that renewable [energy] has a huge role to play in the energy system of the future.”Reuse content