The Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England’s £10bn endowment fund, will vote against all directors at the upcoming AGMs of Exxon, Occidental Petroleum, Shell, and Total, in response to their failure to meet climate change objectives.
“High energy prices produced huge profits at oil and gas companies last year – a golden opportunity to invest very significantly in the transition to a low carbon economy, and one that was comprehensively missed,” said Olga Hancock, Acting Head of Responsible Investment at the Church Commissioners. “So we will be supporting all the relevant climate resolutions, and voting against all of their directors.”
The Church of England says it has long been active in fighting climate change and is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of its investment portfolios to net zero, consistent with limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.
Twenty major fossil fuel companies – including Shell, BP, Total and ExxonMobil – plan to spend almost £1 trillion on new oil and gas by 2030. National governments – including the US, UK, Norway, Australia and Canada – continue to approve new fossil fuel projects in violation of scientific warnings about passing a global climate tipping point.
The Church Commissioners act in line with other like-minded investors by engaging with fossil fuel companies in an effort to change their behaviour. Despite this, in the seven years since the Paris Agreement, the world’s 60 largest private banks have financed the fossil fuel industry to the tune of £5 trillion.
On 20 April 2023, 31 faith institutions from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Italy and France joined a global divestment announcement, proclaiming ‘no faith in fossil fuels’ by making their assets permanently off limits to fossil fuel companies. Their decision represents £1.75bn in assets under management by such companies.
Half of all Catholic dioceses in England and Wales have also now pledged to permanently exclude fossil fuel investments, while in 2018, the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies said they would divest from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement by the end of 2023.
Religious institutions manage a combined £2.5 trillion of investments globally and have divested from fossil fuels more than any other sector.