Church of England Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Oil, gas companies have until 2023 to comply with Paris Agreement goals before the church will pull all holdings.

The Church of England has voted to dump £12 billion ($15 billion) in holdings of fossil fuel companies if they are not tackling global warming quickly enough.

The church voted 347-4 with three abstentions in favor of the changes in the General Synod, the church’s legislative body, reports Citywire. Oil and gas companies that have not aligned their businesses with the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2023 will see divestment from the £8.33 billion Church Commissioners investment fund, the Church’s £2.3 billion retirement fund, and an additional £2 billion in other Church of England funds.

The vote is based on the suggestion of Canon Giles Goddard of the church’s environmental group that the church track companies’ progress on carbon reduction by 2023. Goddard said companies not focused on the Paris Agreement’s target to reduce global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius by that time should see divestment from the church.

In his initial proposal, Goddard pushed compliance deadlines to 2020, but the church decided 2023 would better encourage progress without “prematurely divesting” from businesses.

At the Synod discussion, David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, said that full divestment from fossil fuel companies in 2020 would “leave our strategy and influence in tatters.” Walker also said that divestment would also relieve fossil fuel companies from compliance rather than reinforce it. He agreed with the 2023 deadline, saying that it creates enough time for engagement.

As of December, the church itself had £123 million in oil and gas investments. In 2015 and 2017, its funds cut coal miners and companies taking oil from tar sands and filed a motion with oil giant ExxonMobil on improving its climate risk disclosures.

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