C of E divests of fossil fuels as oil and gas firms ditch climate pledges

The Church of England is divesting from fossil fuels in its multibillion pound endowment and pension funds over climate concerns and what the church claims are recent U-turns by oil and gas companies.

The church said it was abandoning oil and gas companies and all firms primarily engaged in the exploration, production and refining of oil or gas by the end of 2023, unless they were in genuine alignment with a 1.5C reduction pathway.

The church has previously rejected calls to sell off fossil fuel holdings in its £3.5bn pension fund.

Other faith institutions that have already announced their divestment from fossil fuels include the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church.

In an announcement on Thursday, the C of E said it was divesting from fossil fuels in its £10.3bn endowment fund and its pension fund.

The pensions board would no longer invest in Shell, BP and other oil and gas companies because they were failing to show sufficient ambition to decarbonise in line with the aims of the Paris agreement, the church said in a statement.

The announcement comes after the new CEO of Shell, Wael Sawan, abandoned plans to cut oil production each year for the rest of the decade, partly in a bid to increase payouts to shareholders. In February, BP also scaled back its plans to cut oil and gas production this decade.

“The climate crisis threatens the planet we live on, and people around the world who Jesus Christ calls us to love as our neighbours. It is our duty to protect God’s creation, and energy companies have a special responsibility to help us achieve the just transition to the low carbon economy we need,” said Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the chair of the church commissioners for England.

“We have long urged companies to take climate change seriously, and specifically to align with the goals of the Paris climate agreement and pursue efforts to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. In practical terms that means phasing out fossil fuels, investing in renewables, and plotting a credible path to a net zero world. Some progress has been made, but not nearly enough. The church will follow not just the science, but our faith – both of which call us to work for climate justice.”