The Methodist Council has voted to support a motion calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies, agreeing that further action is needed to fully implement a motion on divestment passed by the 2017 Methodist Conference. The debate had been referred to Council by the Methodist Conference in July this year.
The 2017 Methodist Conference passed a motion calling for divestment from any fossil fuel company that had ‘not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees’ by the 2020 Conference. Meeting the Paris Agreement goals is generally seen as our best chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis.
The Methodist Conference debate in July 2020 followed an announcement from the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church in June that it would divest from BP and Total, but continue investing in four oil and gas companies. It continued investing in Shell, Repsol, Eni and Equinor, after the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment (JACEI) concluded that these companies ‘are aligned, or are close to being aligned, with the Paris Agreement.’
The resolution passed by Methodist Council states: ‘The Council supports the request that JACEI recommends that the Central Finance Board fully implements Notice of Motion 2017/209, and disinvests before the 2021 Conference from all oil and gas companies which are not currently aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees.’
Last week, the Transition Pathway Initiative (a project supported by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church) published its latest analysis of companies in different sectors, which showed that no oil and gas company is aligned with limiting global average temperature rises to well below 2°C, or even 2°C.
There has been growing support in the Methodist Church for full divestment from fossil fuels. In June, 260 Methodists, including 114 ministers and former Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Methodist Conference, signed a letter calling for the Central Finance Board to complete divestmentfrom fossil fuel companies.
Five Methodist churches have already announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels including Ivybridge Methodist Church in Devon (in December 2019) and Stirling Methodist Church (in January 2020). Three further Methodist churches announced their decisions to end investments in fossil fuel companies as part of the global divestment announcement: Lancaster Methodist Church, Stroud Methodist Church and Banner Cross Methodist Church in Sheffield. They called on the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church to complete divestment from fossil fuels this year.
Martha Rand, a representative of the Methodist Youth Assembly, who originally proposed the motion at Methodist Conference, said: ‘I am overjoyed that Methodist Council has agreed that JACEI and the Central Finance Board have not gone far enough in response to the climate emergency. This is vital not just for the new generation of Methodists, but also in support of our partner Churches around the world. We hope that the Methodist Church will now act with urgency to fully divest from all fossil fuel companies.’
The motion was seconded at Methodist Conference by Revd John Howard, the former Chair of JACEI, the Methodist Church’s ethical investment advisory group. He said: ‘I am glad that the Methodist Church has had the courage to do the right thing, given the severe and urgent nature of the climate crisis.’
James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘We would like to thank the Methodist Council members and all Methodists who have supported this resolution on fossil fuel divestment. Given that no oil and gas companies are aligned with the Paris Agreement targets, the Central Finance Board should now commit to full divestment from all fossil fuel companies.’
1. Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis. It works with all Christian denominations. http://operationnoah.org/
2. The resolution passed at the Methodist Council on Monday 12 October reads as follows: ‘The Council supports the request that JACEI recommends that the Central Finance Board fully implements Notice of Motion 2017/209, and disinvests before the 2021 Conference from all oil and gas companies which are not currently aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees.’
8. A September 2020 Oil Change International report endorsed by Christian Aid, ShareAction and others, entitled Big Oil Reality Check — Assessing Oil And Gas Climate Plans, found that none of the major oil companies come close to alignment with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement (it analyses the companies using around 10 different metrics). http://priceofoil.org/2020/09/23/big-oil-reality-check/
10. Here is the text of the amended motion passed by the Methodist Conference in July 2020:
The Conference welcomes the analysis provided by the Central Finance Board and JACEI, and the recent decision to disinvest from BP and Total
The Conference notes the recognition of the climate emergency by the 2019 Conference and the need for urgent action at all levels
The Conference notes that the Notice of Motion 2017/109 passed at the 2017 Conference requested disinvestment from any oil and gas company by the 2020 Conference that ‘has not aligned their business investment plans with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees’
The Conference notes that the JACEI report for the 2020 Conference on Climate change and fossil fuels, which draws the conclusion that Repsol, ENI, Royal Dutch Shell, and Equinor ‘are aligned, or are close to being aligned, with the Paris Agreement’, has not fully implemented Notice of Motion 2017/109
Taking account of the findings of the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), a project supported by the Central Finance Board, the Conference refers to the Methodist Council a request that JACEI recommend that the Central Finance Board fully implements Notice of Motion 2017/209, and disinvests before the 2021 Conference from all oil and gas companies which are not currently aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees.
Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and a regular guest blogger for Operation Noah, has just published his eco-thriller, Skyseed. It explores what could go wrong if we use climate engineering to try to solve the climate crisis.
It beggars belief that as the climate
crisis deepens, calls to try technological tinkering to get us out of the mess
grow ever louder. Remember, we are where we are, because we have been
conducting an experiment with the composition of our planet’s atmosphere ever
since the wheels of the industrial revolution began to turn. Launching another
experiment to try and solve the problems brought about by the first is exactly
what we don’t need. But that is what the supporters of so-called geoengineering
–intentional, large-scale, interference with the environment – want to do.
In the footsteps of Dr. Strangelove
The belief that we can apply a techno-fix
to stop global heating in its tracks has been around for quite a while. None
other than Edward Teller – father of the H-bomb and putative inspiration for
Dr. Strangelove – was keen on the idea. Wild and wacky as ever, Teller toyed
with such notions as giant sunshades in space, or deluging the stratosphere
with billions of tiny reflective spheres, to block out part of the sun’s heat.
Today’s schemes are perhaps less freaky, but no less risky for that.
Broadly-speaking, they can be grouped into plans – like Teller’s – for reducing
the sun’s input (Solar Radiation Management), for easing the passage of heat
from the Earth into space (Earth Radiation Management), and for sucking carbon
dioxide from the air (Carbon Dioxide Removal).
Mimicking a volcano
Amongst the many geoengineering schemes
proposed to put global heating in its place, one seems to have gained
significant support in the last couple of years. Following in Teller’s
footsteps, the plan is to mimic a large volcanic eruption by pumping millions
of tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere. As happens after a major
volcanic blast, the gas would form an aerosol veil of tiny sulphuric acid
droplets, conjuring up a planetary shroud to manage incoming solar radiation.
In fact, the tiny droplets are especially effective at reflecting the sun’s
heat back into space, so cooling the troposphere (the lower atmosphere) and the
surface beneath. This is why a significant fall in global temperature follows
very large volcanic eruptions.
In the years immediately after the 1991
eruption of Pinatubo (Philippines), the global average temperature fell by
around 0.6°. Looking back further, the 1783 Laki (Iceland) outburst caused
severe cooling across Europe and North America the following year, and even weakened
the African and Asian monsoons. Most famous of all, the colossal 1815 blast of
Tambora (Indonesia) is held responsible for the so-called ‘Year Without a
Summer’ in 1816, which drove widespread harvest failure, famine, and the last,
great, subsistence crisis in the western world.
But geoengineers are nothing if not
optimists, which is why they poo-poo the mass of evidence for the manifold and
unpredictable ways in which stratospheric sulphur veils can affect the climate
system and, ultimately, society and economy. In fact, some insist that their
modelling shows that everyone will be a winner. Generating and maintaining an
artificial volcanic shroud, they say, will have positive benefits for all. A
significant reduction in global temperatures without any nasty side effects.
This touching confidence in technology has always smelled to me of a conspiracy
of scientistic hubris and a particularly naïve confidence in modelling. Others
say it is just pie-in-the-sky.
What could possibly go wrong
There are so many potential problems
associated with such attempts to artificially block the sun’s input that it is
difficult to know where to start. Studies have shown that plant photosynthesis
would slow, resulting in falling crop yields. Solar power installations would
become less efficient, while the sulphur gases could damage the ozone layer.
Regional rainfall patterns could bring drought to some places and floods to
Tackling the symptoms, not the cause
At the same time, the oceans would keep on
getting more acidic, as the scheme does nothing to reduce atmospheric carbon
levels. And this is the nub of the problem. By seeking to reduce temperatures
while doing nothing about carbon emissions, nor carbon dioxide levels in the
atmosphere, such a solar radiation management techno-fix simply addresses (one
of) the symptoms of global heating and accompanying climate breakdown, not the
What we need are urgent measures to slash
carbon emissions at a rate that is in line with keeping the global average
temperature rise (compared to pre-industrial times) below the 1.5° dangerous
climate change guardrail. What we don’t need are harebrained techie schemes
that are costly, dangerous, and detract from efforts to tackle global heating
by conventional means. Such dubious plans should stay where they are most at
home, in the pages of a science fiction book.
Skyseed is here
Speaking of which, if you want to find out what happens when a climate engineering programme goes pear-shaped, you could do worse than read my just-published eco-thriller, Skyseed. Hacking the Earth could be the last thing we ever do.
Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.
Leanne Clelland, Christian Aid Scotland, 07835 123773
James Buchanan, Operation Noah, 07801 570653
Christian environmental and development charities Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah joyfully welcome the decision of the Church of Scotland to set a 2030 net zero target.
At the Church of Scotland 2020 General Assembly today, the Church’s Faith Impact Forum brought a proposal to the General Assembly ‘for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030’.
General Assembly Commissioners voted to support an amendment from Rev Jenny Adams, Minister of Duffus, Spynie and Hopeman Parish Church.
The amended motion passed by General Assembly reads: ‘Instruct the Faith Impact Forum to work with others to develop a strategy for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, reporting an outline strategy to General Assembly 2021.’
The decision to set a 2030 net zero target is especially significant as Glasgow prepares to host the UN climate talks, COP26, in November 2021.
In her speech to the General Assembly, Rev Jenny Adams said: ‘This is a climate emergency and the next 10 years are crucial. I hope that by working with others within and beyond the Church, we will be able to get going on this difficult but vital transition, for the sake of all creation.’
Commissioners at the General Assembly also voted in favour of a motion on fossil fuel divestment proposed by Seonaid Knox. This motion called on the Church’s Faith Impact Forum to ‘report to the 2021 General Assembly on the ethical, scientific and theological arguments for and against urgent disinvestment from oil and gas companies’.
The Church of England voted to set a 2030 net zero target earlier this year. Many local authorities have also made this pledge, including the City Councils of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah applauded the decision to set a 2030 net zero target. They said that the Church of Scotland now needs to end its investments in fossil fuel companies in order to demonstrate climate leadership ahead of the crucial COP26 climate summit.
Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland,said: ‘The communities with which Christian Aid works, in many of the poorest parts of the world, are calling for urgent leadership on climate change, and this decision from the Church of Scotland demonstrates that leadership. We welcome it warmly, and look forward to working in partnership with the Church of Scotland to help realise these ambitious new goals. One of the steps that the Church could take in the short-term is to commit to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, and we hope that is part of the plans brought forward in 2021.’
Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland, said: ‘We are delighted that one of our key partner Churches has committed to transitioning to net zero in the next 10 years.’
James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘It is wonderful news that the Church of Scotland has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. In order to demonstrate leadership on the climate crisis ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow next year, it is vital that the Church of Scotland supports a just and green recovery from Covid-19 by divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in the clean technologies of the future.’
Notes for editors:
1. Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis. It works with all Christian denominations.
2. Christian Aid holds a vision of a better world, free from poverty and climate change. For over ten years, Christian Aid Scotland has been campaigning for the UK and Scottish Governments to take climate change seriously for the benefit of those who are impacted first and worst by its effects.
3. Eco-Congregation Scotland is a movement of Scottish church congregations, of all denominations and none, committed to addressing environmental issues through their life and mission.
Churches up and down the country have been running Climate Sunday services since the initiative launched in September. Operation Noah trustee, David Miller, explains how his church put on an online service.
opportunity to help our church – currently in the middle of an interregnum – by
proposing a preacher and sermon subject for Sept 6th
was too good to miss! Our church, Whaddon Way Church, is an ecumenical church
in Bletchley, an established town in the south-west of Milton Keynes.
So it was that the Revd Steve Barnes, retired chaplain of our
local hospice, preached at our Zoom service on Climate Sunday. Steve cares
passionately about the environment and for many years he and I have worked
together as participants in our local Green Christian
Steve proposed that, in a similar way that cells reproducing in an
uncontrolled way (cancer) have a catastrophic effect on our bodies, humanity’s
ever-growing consumption of resources and generation of pollution including
greenhouse gases, are destroying the natural world created by God and for which
we are supposed to be exercising care and protection. Particularly in the rich
west, we have allowed ourselves to become addicted to the pursuit of having
more, better, newer, faster, and no longer recognise when enough is
Whereas any member of the human race should be concerned about the
way their present actions may be compromising the future for our children and
grandchildren, Steve argued that for Christians this represents a spiritual
problem. Referring to the old testament passage we had read (Ezekiel 33:7-11)
Steve explained that we need to become modern-day prophets, warning of the
wrong path being travelled and the consequences for the world God has created.
Failure to do so will result in God holding us responsible.
Jesus came to give us life in all its fulness and to bring joy,
peace and love. When we pray Thy
Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done on earth, we are
effectively saying to God that we desire a world which is in keeping with how
He intends it to be. He wants us to be participants in that project!
After the Zoom service, Steve moved around several of the breakout
rooms and discovered many folks enthusiastic about exploring what actions they
could take to address the environmental challenges that face us. The
trustees have agreed to set up a working group tasked with proposing a way
forward for the church. At the time of writing, the first volunteers have
already come forward…..
Climate Sunday, an initiative proposed by Operation Noah and organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s Environmental Issues Network, with support almost 20 organisations, is asking churches to hold a climate-focused service between now and 5th September 2021, to make a commitment to take long term action to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and to use their voice to tell politicians we want a cleaner, greener, fairer future at the heart of plans to rebuild a strong economy. Find out more.
Watch and listen to other online Climate Sunday services
Revd Vanessa Elston, of St Anne and All Saints South Lambeth,
introduced the season of Creationtide with a stark message about the climate
crisis in this online service.
Cardiff and Penarth URCs held an online service and made
an audio recording.
Revd David Carrington, from the Otter Vale Mission Community,
Devon, offers a Climate Change Sunday reflection in this video
The Diocese of Oxford held an online Climate Sunday service and
made a video recording.
This month we bring you news of how to get involved in the next Global Divestment announcement and examples of Climate Sunday services taking place around the country. We’ve also been reviewing some resources we think you’ll find useful.
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