LONDON Jan 17 The Church of England pushed back
on Friday from calls to get rid of its investments in companies
extracting or selling fossil fuels, saying it would mean a
financial hit and it was better to use shareholder influence to
The church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) is
reviewing its policy on ethical investment related to climate
change, with some church officials calling for disinvestment
from such companies to highlight the need to move to a
The Church of England, mother church of the world's 80
million Anglicans, holds total investments worth about 8 billion
pounds ($13 billion) that are used to pay clergy pensions and
fund the church's work.
Some is invested in funds but the church also has direct
investments of more than 10 million pounds in Shell, BP
, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
The diocese of Southwark last July passed a resolution for
the church to completely divest from fossil fuels, following the
lead of other religious organisations globally including
Anglican dioceses in New Zealand and the Quakers in the UK.
However, some in the church argue that shareholders should
engage with companies to make them reorder their priorities and
cut emissions. Others recommend quitting high-emission practices
like coal and tar-sands with a proposed time-frame to move to a
Richard Burridge, deputy chairman of the EIAG that advises
the church's three National Investing Bodies (NIBs) and a Church
of England clergyman, said there was a real financial risk in
excluding sectors of the market from investment for ethical
reasons as it reduced opportunities.
He said 12.5 percent of the UK's FTSE350 stock market index
was already excluded from investment as a result of ethical
investment policies which had meant a loss of about 0.7 percent
a year between 2001 and 2012.
A further 14.25 percent of the FTSE350 would be excluded if
the church quit the "integrated oil and gas" and "oil and gas
exploration and production" sectors, he said.
"This would leave 26.5 percent of the index excluded from
investment, and a higher risk of financial detriment," Burridge
said in a paper to be presented at the next meeting of the
church's governing body, the General Synod, in February.
"From discussions to date, a recommendation that the NIBs
should disinvest from all fossil fuel companies seems unlikely."
The push for disinvestment follows the release of several
reports by the church and other religious groups raising
concerns about climate change. The Southwark resolution stemmed
from a motion by a parishioner challenging the church's
investment in Shell and the fossil fuel industry.
Burridge said the EIAG would consider the merits of blocking
investment in some companies involved in fossil fuels.
"For example, the EIAG will consider whether to recommend
that the NIBs should implement, at this stage of the transition
to a low-carbon economy, ethical restrictions on investment in
companies whose main business is coal mining," he said.
Jacqui Philips, clerk to the synod, said the review into the
church's investment position was ongoing and the synod would be
asked to set up a working group on the environment to look at
initiatives to reduce the threat and impact of climate change.
"No decision has yet been made and this is something that is
under review," Philips told Reuters.