Christian Aid has praised the prophetic vision of the Church of England’s General Synod after it voted to sell its holdings in fossil fuel companies by 2023 if they have not aligned their business plans with the targets of the Paris Agreement.
Christian Aid’s Head of UK Advocacy, Tom Viita, said: “Today's vote by the Church of England Synod shows the bell is tolling for the fossil fuel era. As Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said last week, climate change is the great existential threat of our times, and today the church has backed up his words with a clear decision to pull its investments from fossil fuel companies that don't quickly align themselves with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
"We are pleased that this resolution has been carried so convincingly, giving a firmer basis than previously for holding the National Investing Bodies to account, while allowing them time to demonstrate the hoped-for progress of their engagement strategy.
"This vote puts the oil majors on notice, and strengthens the arm of those pushing the companies to move more quickly to a low carbon future. If oil companies continue to drag their heels, there is nothing to stop the church divesting earlier if they, or Synod, are not satisfied with the speed of change.
“Despite having known about climate change for decades, none of the oil and gas companies has a business plan that aligns with the goal of 2 degrees, or the Paris Agreement's more urgent goal of 1.5 degrees. Recent shareholder resolutions - the fruits of the church's engagement - have yielded only partial information and served to show that these companies need much more pressure if they are to comply. Today they must hear loud and clear: the church, along with many other investors, expects them to honour international goals by fundamentally changing their business models, or face the consequences.
"The debate highlighted rightly that climate change is already having dire consequences for our brothers and sisters around the world, who face a future of worsening poverty because of the warm words but inaction of the richest. For them, tackling climate change is real and urgent, and 1.5 degrees is a matter of survival. Today's debate must inject real urgency into the church's engagement because every delay is costing lives, and the luxury of a slow process of engagement is not something we should indulge without getting tangible results for those who need them most."