According to information obtained by the Guardian, Shell is a shareholder of the Church of England Pensions Board, which has not divested its £3.5 billion fund from fossil fuels.

During his 38-year career at the oil corporation, Clive Mather oversaw a massive Canadian tar sands project that cost many billions of dollars.

The Church of England (C of E) has refused demands to divest itself of its investments in fossil fuels. Campaigners called for Mather to step down, claiming that these investments were unethical and contributing to the climate problem.

Baptist and United Reformed churches in Britain have cut their ties to fossil fuels. Over 500 churches and faith-based organisations have divested around the world, including 17 Anglican dioceses.

At a recent international gathering of Anglican bishops, the C of E’s leader, archbishop Justin Welby, declared: “It is the call of the church to stand with our brothers and sisters around the Anglican communion who are already affected by climate change and to safeguard the environment upon which we all depend.”

The Rev. Vanessa Elson, a protester with Christian Climate Action from the Southwark diocese, spoke at the conference in favour of fossil fuel divestment. She called it “shocking” when it was revealed that Mather owned shares in Shell.

The fossil fuel industry has been lying and greenwashing for 40 years, she claimed, therefore the C of E needs to divest. They behaved impiously. They would invest 50% of their revenues in renewables if they were concerned about the climate catastrophe, but they aren’t even close to achieving that.

The “halting of new gas and oil development” was a demand made in one of the Lambeth Calls, statements that were released following the meeting. There are around 4 billion barrels of oil in Shell’s near-term expansion plans. If you truly want to answer that call, Elston remarked, you must divest.

Christian environmental organisation Operation Noah pushed Mather to step down. The Rev. Dr. Darrell Hannah, pastor of All Saints Church in Ascot and chairman of the organization’s board of trustees, stated that Operation Noah “calls for Mr. Mather to consider his position in light of his conflict of interest.” And once more, we urge the Council of Europe to divest from all fossil fuels right away, not in 2019.

Additionally, the £10 billion church commissioners fund of the C of E has not divested from fossil fuels.

Up to 18 million people may need to migrate [from Bangladesh] due to sea-level rise, according to Bishop Shourabh Pholia of the diocese of Barisal in Bangladesh, who attended the conference. I therefore wish to join the demonstrators in their fight for environmental justice and the preservation of all of creation.

Mather has always avoided talking about or engaging in direct contact with Shell. Any claims that Mr. Mather’s interests in Shell have any impact on the pension board’s investment strategy for fossil fuels are untrue, according to a C of E spokesperson. The General Synod of 2018 approved a clear five-year fossil fuel policy for the pensions board and church commissioners.

According to him, the outcomes include a net zero oil and gas standard being tested by major oil and gas corporations, investor pressure forcing businesses to accept carbon targets, and divesting from businesses that refuse to participate. By July 2023, the C of E would stop investing in fossil fuel corporations that oppose the Paris climate deal, he declared.

In July 2021, Mather referred to Shell as a “beacon throughout the sector” at the general synod of the C of E. Richard Hubbard, a second member of the pensions board, spent 28 years working for BP, and Welby served as Enterprise Oil’s group treasurer from 1984 to 1987.

Campaigners for divestment contend that selling off shares of fossil fuel firms is a potent strategy to weaken their social licence to operate and limit their access to financing. Around 200 pension funds are among the more than 1,500 entities that have divested from fossil fuels and are in charge of $40 trillion.

“An degradation of our corporate reputation might have a materially significant effect on our brand, our capacity to procure new resources or access financial markets, and on our licence to operate,” Shell stated in 2020.

Divestment opponents contend that working with corporations as shareholders to effect change is a more effective strategy for addressing the climate catastrophe. Fossil fuel shares are held by the C of E pension fund for around £10 million.

The capital expenditure and production plans of the fossil fuel companies in which the C of E pension board invests must be “aligned with a net zero aim,” according to the pension board. However, in February, the largest investigation to yet came to the conclusion that charges of greenwashing against significant oil firms that assert to be in transition to clean energy, including Shell.

Hannah declared, “It’s obvious that investor involvement has failed. It is no longer ethical to profit from fossil fuels, something the C of E continues to do and, tragically, something that Mr. Mather is evidently currently doing as well. This is because of the immense harm that fossil fuel emissions are bringing to people and the environment.

The late Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of the most well-known advocates of fossil fuel divestment initiatives. He stated to the Guardian in 2014 that “people of conscience need to cut their relationships with businesses sponsoring the injustice of climate change.”

If the climate catastrophe is to be resolved, the vast bulk of fossil fuel reserves owned by nations and corporations must stay underground, according to a 2021 analysis.

Many of these reserves could lose their value if governments stick to their commitments to reduce carbon emissions, according to experts. According to a recent analysis, residents of wealthy nations might lose a combined amount of $1 trillion.

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