The Church of England has passed a motion which will see its investment pulled from companies not on track for achieving Paris Agreement climate targets by 2023.
The vote was finalised on Sunday 8 July by the Church’s General Synod, with the group requesting that National Investing Bodies (NIBs) includes an amendment in its investment plan that will see an assessment of companies’ predicted progress by 2023, and a disinvestment from any firm lagging behind on the goals of the Paris Agreement.
A total of 347 voted in favour of the amended strategy, with four against and three abstaining.
The NIB is responsible for a number of Church investment bodies such as the Church of England Pensions Board and the Church Commissioners. It currently follows a policy which stresses the need to engage with companies rather than disinvesting from them prematurely, with the hope that a positive influence could be exerted over them.
The Synod has previously voiced its support of such an approach and indeed a spokesperson from the Church of England said the policy of active engagement has thus far provided, “greater leverage and influence than we could ever hope to achieve by acting alone or by forced divestment”. However, doubts over the efficacy of such a strategy have recently been called into question.
Specifically, Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, voiced his concern that the method of engaging with environmentally dubious companies was not working, telling the Daily Telegraph that he wanted a ‘red line’ to be drawn with companies so is pushing for an earlier deadline of 2020.
However, others believe such a tight deadline would not be conducive to motivating companies’ environmental improvements. Bishop of Manchester David Walker said that a ‘wholescale disinvestment’ from fossil fuel companies by 2020 “would leave our strategy, and influence, in tatters”. He added that such a move would not make companies change faster, but would instead “take the pressure off them” as they would find the targets too ambitious and thus unworkable.
Amongst those in favour of the move is relief and development agency Christian Aid, with head of UK advocacy Tom Viita saying it “puts the oil majors on notice and strengthens the arm of those pushing the companies to move quickly to a low-carbon future”, placing the power in the hands of the Church rather than the fossil fuel companies themselves.