01/05/2015 06:09 BST | Updated 01/05/2015 06:59 BST

Church Of England Cleans Up Investment Portfollio With £12m Fossil Fuel Share Sell-Off

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrives for the Easter Day service at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.
Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrives for the Easter Day service at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.

The Church of England is continuing to clean up its investment portfolio, selling £12 million of its shares in fossil fuel companies, as part of a new climate change policy.

The Church said it will no longer make any direct investments in companies that generate more than 10% of their revenue from extracting thermal coal or producing oil from tar sands.

Last year the church was caught-out, when having campaigned against pay day lenders, it was revealed it had indirectly invested in Wonga. The church later said it was indirectly exposed to the payday lender through pooled funds of less than £100,000, and "removed" the investment.

Bishop Nick Holtam, the lead Bishop on the environment at the Church of England, said climate change is "the most pressing moral issue in our world".

archbishop of canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, seen above at the Easter Day service at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent

The policy will see more engagement between the church's national investment bodies and the companies in which it holds shares, including fossil fuel producers.

Pierre Jameson, chief investment officer of the Church of England pensions board said it wanted a global policy frameworks that "incentivises" the reduction of carbon emissions and the "transition to a low carbon economy".

He said: "We need governments meeting in Paris at the end of this year to agree long term global emissions targets with a clear pathway to a low carbon future."

Tom Joy, director of investments at the Church Commissioners, said the church wants to be "at the forefront of institutional investors seeking to address the challenge of energy transition".

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The commissioners are the largest private owner of UK forestry, with 4% of their portfolio invested in sustainable forestry.

Mr Joy added: "This new policy rightly goes beyond to incorporate investment exclusions for companies focused on the highest carbon fossil fuels where we do not think engagement would be productive."

The Rev Canon Professor Richard Burridge, deputy chairman of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said the church has a moral responsibility to take action on environmental issues and work for justice for the poor "who are most vulnerable to climate change".

He said: "This responsibility encompasses not only the Church's own work to reduce our own carbon footprint, but also how the Church's money is invested and how we engage with companies on this vital issue."


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