Scientific facts and studies tell us climate change, also called global warming, is impacting our environment. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states:
“Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.”
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of renewables like solar and wind are on the forefront of ways to reduce fossil fuel use.[/su_pullquote]
A large proportion of climate change is caused by the mining, extraction and burning of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane into the atmosphere. These chemicals cause the earth to retain heat and warm unnaturally. The only proven way to prevent this warming is to not release the chemicals in the first place. There are 2,795 gigatons of CO2 stored in proven reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal below ground. In order to limit global warming to 2 degrees C, we can only burn 1,000 gigatons of these reserves.
Energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of renewables like solar and wind are on the forefront of ways to reduce fossil fuel use. The other important strategy is to de-value the fossil fuel reserves by not investing in the 200 companies that own most of those reserves. If investors walk away from those holding fossil fuel reserves and instead invest in renewables and energy efficiency, we have a chance to prevent an untenable warming of our climate and the suffering that will result.
In the summer of 2015, the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church recognized this issue and passed Resolution C045 – Call for Investing in Clean and Renewable Energy. This resolution called on “the Investment Committee of the Executive Council, the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund, and the Episcopal Church Foundation to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in clean renewable energy in a fiscally responsible manner;” and to “refrain from purchasing any new holdings of public equities and corporate bonds of fossil fuel companies”. Unfortunately, the negotiations for this resolution excluded the Church Pension Fund assets of over $11 billion from the call to action. It is important for us all, as lovers of God’s Creation, to understand the importance of fossil fuel divestment.
The resolution also urged “all dioceses and parishes of the Episcopal Church to engage the topic of divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in clean energy within the coming year.” We as a diocese have had very little formal conversation on this topic, nor have we made a commitment to divest diocesan funds from fossil fuels. The Trustees for the Diocese are charged, “to receive and invest funds given to the diocese as endowment.” The Trustees, who manage over $100,000,000 on our behalf, have committed to using Environmental and Social Governance guidelines when making investment decisions, and have invested an amount that is less than 5% of the total endowment in the Rockefeller Global Sustainability and Impact Equity Strategy toward that end. However, they are also taking the approach of “we prefer corporate engagement to divestment.” This is contrary to the leadership shown by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.
It is time for us, as a diocese, to finish the discussions and take further action for the sake of our children, grandchildren and those throughout the world already suffering from the consequences of climate change. Toward that end, I recommend the following action steps:
1. If you have personal investments begin the research to divest of your energy stocks and set a plan and schedule to do so.
2. If your congregation has an endowment, ask questions about how the funds are invested and how Social and Environmental guidelines are used.
3. Engage the Trustees of the Diocese to ask them to help lead us to more just investment strategies. The financial consultants that assist the Trustees can do the research of how to make these transitions to the benefit of the whole diocese. Ask the Trustees about the results of their efforts at corporate engagement.
My wife, Kathy, and I have divested 65% of our investments and hope to have the final 35% divested by the end of the year. Will you join us in this effort to preserve God’s Creation?
[su_box title=”Resources on fossil fuel divestment” style=”soft” box_color=”#56d23f”]
350: A global, grassroots climate movement www.350.org
The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment: Investing to Curb Climate Change: A Guide for the Institutional Investor www.ussif.org/files/Publications/Institutional_Climate.pdf
Power Shift: a network mobilizing the power of young people to mitigate climate change http://powershift.org/campaigns/divest[/su_box]
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The Rev. Craig Foster, PE, is a deacon at St. John’s, Columbus, and Technical Consultant for Ohio Interfaith Power and Light. To learn more about divestment and the opportunities that exist, email Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.