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Churches shed fossil fuel holdings

Churches shed fossil fuel holdings

Kate Galbraith writes a “Green Column” called “Churches Go Green by Shedding Fossil Fuel Holdings” in the International Business section of the online New York Times. An excerpt:

“The amount of money we’re talking about isn’t going to bankrupt any fossil fuel companies,” Dr. Maddox said. Divestment by the churches, however, “has the effect of getting people to stop and think, ‘Is this respectable to be involved with?’ ”

Religious institutions were in the vanguard of the movement to divest themselves of holdings in apartheid-riven South Africa a few decades ago, according to a recent study of divestment by Oxford academics. Now, climate change has come into the spotlight as an issue poised to affect some of the world’s poorest communities, and groups from all faiths have pushed for action. But it is youthful and idealistic students who have largely taken the lead in urging the removal of fossil fuel investments from endowments. Last week, the University of Glasgow said it had become the first British university to announce plans for full divestment. Philanthropies and local governments have also joined the movement.

But many institutions, including churches, have been cautious. The Church of England, for example, debated the issue this year but has so far resisted pressure from activists to divest itself of investments in fossil fuels. The church is still reviewing the matter, and a new policy on climate change and investment is scheduled to be published next year. Edward Mason, the head of responsible investment for the church’s commissioners, said in a statement that the Church of England continued to engage with companies “on matters such as their carbon emissions management, deployment of capital to fossil-fuel extraction and lobbying activities.”

Michael Northcott, a professor of ethics at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity, who has urged the Church of England and other institutions to divest themselves of holdings in fossil fuels, said, “Churches in the main are not accustomed to standing apart from Western culture on big issues like where they put their money.

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