Church Snub Shows Challenge of Keeping Investors’ Faith

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The Church of England fired a shot across the bows of the oil industry last week when it announced it would divest its remaining holdings in oil and gas companies, saying none had strategies aligned with the Paris Agreement. The church’s holdings in oil majors were relatively minuscule, but its pensions board and chief responsible investment officer, Adam Matthews, have an outsized voice in the sector, particularly as the former lead engagers with Shell for the $68 trillion Climate Action 100+ network. The move brought fresh light to calls for divestment from fossil fuels and the long-running debate among climate-focused investors over whether it is better to own oil shares and push for tighter emissions standards or sell them in protest over their climate impacts. “Excluding companies from investment is the right next step for companies whose approach to fossil fuels no longer aligns with the church’s and the National Investing Bodies’ values to seek justice for people and all creation,” the Right Reverend Graham Usher said in an update on the church’s climate initiatives. Follow This founder Mark van Baal, who has championed aggressive climate engagement with the oil industry through shareholder resolutions, said the church’s move had no impact on emissions from the oil and gas sector. “While it is encouraging that the Church of England agrees that no oil major [is] Paris-aligned, selling shares will not help to get them Paris-aligned,” he told Energy Intelligence. “It’s better to use your voting power as a shareholder, which the Church of England didn’t do in previous years.”

Corporate Strategy , Majors, ESG
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