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. https://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.
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.