Showing posts from 2016

Church of Ireland has millions invested in new Kinder Morgan pipelines

This week the Canadian prime minister approved an application from Kinder Morgan to build a new pipeline to transport oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the west coast of Canada.  Details of the operation come from Kinder Morgan is a US based company who wish to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Vancouver, and then export this oil via tanker from Burrard Inlet to Asia. The existing and expanded proposal would deliver 890,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day to Vancouver. Oil storage capacity at Burnaby would triple, adding 14 new tanks to store another 3,900,000 barrels.   The pipeline would cross more than 500 streams in the Fraser River watershed. Tanker visits would increase by 574% above 2010 levels to 408 oil laden tankers trips through Burrard Inlet, the Fraser estuary, the Gulf Islands, Haro Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait, every year. The Church of Ireland has its largest single investment in this company, around 2% of the total inves

Clergy Pensions Fund

Letter published in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 2 Dec 2016 edition. Clergy Pensions Fund The Church of Ireland Clergy Pensions Fund has a serious problem - millions of euro from the €170.5m Pensions Fund are invested in equities that are directly harming human health through air pollution.  The Lancet medical journal reported that air pollution is a “silent killer” responsible for 6.5 million deaths globally – more than HIV, tuberculosis and serious road accidents combined. In the UK and Ireland air pollution causes more than 50,000 early deaths per year.   The Head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan said, “Air pollution is one of the most important health risk factors globally, comparable to tobacco smoking”.  The Church of Ireland’s ethical investment policy does not permit investments in tobacco products, but it does allow investments in fossil fuel companies. The leading cause of air pollution is burning petrol and diesel fuels in vehicles

Investing in fossil fuels is unethical

This is part 3 of a 3 part article 'Why is engagement with oil giants wrong? ' Many institutions promote ethical investment policies based on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors. The aim is identify and invest in businesses what govern fairly and reduce the negative social and environmental impact of their business. The Church of Ireland has a ESG policy and it does not invest in companies where more than 10% of profits are obtained from strategic military sales, the manufacture of tobacco products, or from coal mining activities (highest carbon emissions). The Church of Ireland Representative Church Body (RCB) ESG policy states, “RCB is committed to having a strong ‘ethical’ as well as a strong financial ‘balance sheet’.” It is good to see that the Church of Ireland aims to be an ethical investor. Burning fossil fuels causes two major problems: air pollution and climate change. Air Pollution Already air pollution from burning fossil fuels is c

We need rapid change, not a gradual shift.

This is part 2 of a 3 part article 'Why is engagement with oil giants wrong? ' The 2015 UN Paris Agreement urges governments of the world to commit to lowering emissions to ensure the global temperature increase remains below 1.5C. But it does more than that. On the level of threat the Paris Agreement says this, Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet. The UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, speaking in 2009 at the DAVOS summit, said, “We face only one truly existential threat. That is climate change.” In the US the Pentagon has called climate change a significant risk . Why is this the case? It is because increasing drought and flooding leads to food and water shortages, which in turn can cause social unrest, conflict and humanitarian disasters. Fragile states can quickly tip over to become failed states descending into civil wars.  These scenarios are being played out right now in Syria

Bishops' Appeal for Haiti - why donating is not enough

I spoke on the Bishop's Appeal at Down and Dromore synod 2016 . The short speech is below. Jeody Luckmane is 28, he is a farmer from Haiti. His home was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew on 4 Oct. In a UNICEF blog he said, “I do not know what we will do now. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing left. There is no food or water, and children are starting to get sick,” A cholera epidemic is looming on Haiti, 1.3 million people are in need of food aid. News like this saddens us, almost to despair. What can we do? I would like to encourage each one of you to give to the Bishop’s Appeal emergency relief fund for Haiti. I would also like you to understand that Church central funds, and your pension fund, are being invested in fossil fuel companies that are the major cause of carbon dioxide pollution and climate change. Global warming is making the impact of hurricanes like Matthew worse. A report released just last Monday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation stat

Why is the engagement with oil giants wrong?

The Church of Ireland acknowledges that a transition to a low carbon economy is essential to help mitigate global warming. Its policy on climate change is based around collaborative engagement with fossil fuel companies. This means that through its membership of bodies such as Church Investors Group and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, the church can engage with fossil fuel companies with the aim of encouraging them to reduce exploration, production and emissions from fossil fuels. The problem is, engagement is not working. Here is why, 1. Years of experience shows engagement is not working . 2. We need rapid change, not a gradual shift . 3. Investing in fossil fuels is unethical. Let’s take each of these arguments in turn. 1. Experience shows engagement does not work. Jonathan Poritt is an elder statesman of the environmental movement. Twenty years ago he advocated engagement with the biggest oil companies: BP and Shell, and worked

Archbishop calls for a mission audit. How does the church itself measure up?

The Archbishop of Armagh has challenged us to do an ‘audit’ against the Five Marks of Mission, but how does the Church of Ireland measure up? I was very pleased to read that the Archbishop’s presidential address at Armagh Diocesan Synod was about the Five Marks of Mission . They are an important statement on person evangelism – for they came out of an Anglican Consultative Council on personal evangelism in 1984 – and they demonstrate that holistic, integrated missions is key in the Anglican Communion. The Five Marks of Mission are: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom To teach, baptise and nurture new believers To respond to human need by loving service To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation. The archbishop outlined each one in turn. He said proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom is not about handing people a package, but rather encouragi

Hurricane Matthew and The Church of Ireland's response

Hurricane Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007. Several countries were impacted but Haiti, receiving a direct hit, suffered catastrophic damage. Over 1000 lives were lost, fifty thousand people are in immediate need of clean water and shelter. The UN World Food Programme has arranged to feed up to 300,000 people. There is also fear of a cholera outbreak. Damage in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is estimated to be in about 1 billion dollars. The Church of Ireland Bishop’s Appeal has responded to this disaster by joining with Christian Aid and highlighting the Haiti emergency appeal. You can give online at the appeal website . Christian Aid and Tearfund both encourage churches to do more for suffering people. This means responding to appeals for disasters and working to tackle the root causes of those disasters – like climate change. But did climate change cause Hurricane Matthew? Well, in general hurricanes just ha

Parishioners from Down and Dromore Diocese #SpeakUp

Press release - Parishioners from Down and Dromore Diocese will join with Bishop Harold Miller to ‘speak up’ for the people, places and things they love that will be impacted by climate change. They have planned a nature walk in association with the Climate Coalition on Saturday 8 October to let David Simpson MP know they care for creation. The organiser, Stephen Trew from Magheralin Parish said, “In recent years we have seen severe weather impact across the island of Ireland, such as the flooding last winter. Climate change is starting to be felt right here. On the news there are tens of thousands of refugees escaping countries hit by drought, failing harvests, hunger and conflict. We need to take action quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the things we love – from habitats in a local nature reserve, to farms in Africa that are suffering crop stress due to a changing climate. This nature walk is a chance for people to let our MP know we care about climate change.”

Bishop Harold endorses Seasons of Creation

Earlier this week Bishop Harold Miller endorsed the ' Seasons of Creation ' initiative by retweeting a video by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (see below). It is great to see Bishop Harold taking a stand and promoting this initiative. He is also one of the few bishops who actively uses Twitter. Good to see, The 1st of September is 'World Day of Prayer for Creation' which is now supported by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches as well as the Word Council of Churches (WCC) - basically all corners of Christendom. Archbishop Welby is encouraging the Anglican Church to take action on the environment, and climate change in particular. But what does suggest that churches actually do? Here is a list, Organise a prayer service for creation - at any time between 1 September and 4 October. A straightforward one for churches to do. Take action for creation - this is where it gets interesting. Actions are divided i

CoI is blind to a 'momentous change in global energy'

If there was one sentence in the Church of Ireland Policy on Climate Change that got my goat it was this one, The RCB is supportive of public policy to support a diverse energy mix and a transition to a low carbon economy, however, the fact is that fossil fuels will continue to contribute a major component of this energy mix for the foreseeable future and remain one of the most cost efficient methods of energy production. The fact is that electricity from renewables is already cheaper than fossil fuels in some parts of the world. This is outlined in an article in the 26 July 2016 edition of the Financial Times entitled ' Balance of power tilts from fossil fuels to renewable energy .'  Here are some quotes, there are momentous changes under way in the global energy system, undermining received wisdom in the sector. It is clear that the world is shifting toward renewables and — as a proportion of total consumption — away from oil, gas and coal. After reading about '

Which bishop will speak up for climate justice?

This week a major report into the ‘State of the climate’ for 2015 was published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was sober reading. 2015 saw many climate records broken.  It was the warmest on record globally, with surface temperatures now +1C above pre-industrial levels, the oceans reached new record temperatures, and sea level rise is at historic levels with oceans now 70mm higher than the 1993 average. Furthermore, atmospheric CO2 crossed the 400ppm threshold and is more than 43% above pre-industrial levels. Each of the last 14 months has broken previous temperature records. A leading climate scientist, Michael Mann, said “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.” The impacts of these changes play out before us every day. Record heatwaves in India and Pakistan , devastating droughts in eastern and southern Africa meaning 36 million p

Church of Ireland investments are risking your health

A  report  by the International Energy Authority (IEA) states that air pollution from fossil fuels has become a major health crises and is responsible for 6.5 million deaths worldwide each year. The report states that the problem of air pollution is growing and the health impacts risk intensifying in the decades to come if nothing is done. In 2015 the Head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan has said that, “Air pollution is one of the most important health risk factors globally, comparable to tobacco smoking”. She was commenting on a report from the Lancet, the world’s foremost medical journal, that highlighted the risks of air pollution from fossil fuels. The Irish government's Environmental Protection Agency states that air pollution is directly linked to 1,200 premature deaths per year mainly around large cities and towns as a result of traffic emissions. The Church of Ireland seeks to be a responsible investor that integrates environmental, social

Archbishop Jackson can lead a Church of Ireland revolution

Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough can lead a revolution in the Church of Ireland, and it might be inspired by the Pope. The revolution I am talking about is to do with mission. The signals are that the archbishop has been thinking long and hard about mission and Christians’ responsibility to care for creation. He likes to use the term 'theological ecology', for it sums up what creation care is all about: humankind’s relationship to God and to the world. Most recently he spoke at the Arklow Festival of Faith on June 2nd 2016 where his theme was ' Care for Creation '. For me several comments stand out from his speech, We as humans have been spectacularly unable to regulate our relationship with creation. This speech draws inspiration from Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si’ on the environment and human ecology. The Pope’s intervention in the climate change debate last year is regarded as a key moment running up to the succes

Archbishop Clarke on the refugee crisis. What about the causes?

I was delighted to see that Archbishop Clarke gave a lecture on 25 May 2016 on the theme of refugees. His lecture was entitled ‘The Stranger at the Gate’ and focused on our response to the refugee crisis and displaced people across the world. The Archbishop addressed the size of the crisis and how we need to respond, but he did not mention anything about the underlying causes. Some useful statistics from the UN  were mentioned in the speech, The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that, worldwide, there are almost 60 million forcibly displaced people; over 45 million men, women and children are being helped or protected by the UN High Commission for Refugees, and over half of all refugees are under 18 years old. And, as we survey the European aspects of the refugee crisis, we need first to accept that nearly 90% of all known refugees are being cared for, not here in Europe, but in the developing world, those countries that can least afford any influx of impoverished n

RCB climate change policy compared to Exxon's

Last week Exxon held its Annual General Meeting at which shareholder resolutions on Climate Change were defeated. Exxon has refused to approve resolutions on climate change since engagement first began in 1996. At the meeting the CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson said, The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not ... just saying ‘turn the taps off’ is not acceptable to humanity, This intransigence did not go down well with many of Exxon's shareholders, 38% of whom voted for change. The interesting thing is to compare the quote above with the RCB's policy on climate change .  Here is an extract, fossil fuels will continue to contribute a major component of this energy mix for the foreseeable future and remain one of the most cost efficient methods of energy production. Whilst not as blunt as the CEO of Exxon, the similarity is striking.

Church of Ireland and Climate Change - time to act on fossil fuel investments

It is certainly good to see the Church of Ireland Representative Church Body (RCB) respond to the issue of climate change. The article ' From Fossils to Forestry: RCB invests in the future ' originally appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 9th May 2016. It indicates that the ethics of fossil fuel investments are at the top of the Investment Committee agenda, which is good to see. The quotes in blue are from the RCB article on which I have commented to further the debate.  The article begins, Climate change is an extremely important, complex and topical issue.  Stating that climate change is ‘complex’ sets the mood. It sets the scene that the RCB aims to steer through the rising seas and storms of climate change and chart the best course having weighed all the options. But opening an article in this way is a distraction, for climate change happening. There is no complexity to that fact. The UN states that global warming is unequivocal and it is caused by h

Letter to Church of Ireland Gazette, 2 June 2016

I wish to express my thanks to the Gazette for the excellent coverage of the General Synod in Dún Laoghaire (20th May issue). Well done to all concerned. Recently, after our evening Café Church, I was talking to some young people about General Synod. They wanted to know if the hierarchy of the Church of Ireland actually listen to ordinary people. I was able to share my experience from the last two years. I assured them that the Executive of the Representative Church Body (RCB) actually do listen during debate and can respond when a strong moral argument is presented. The moral argument to divest from fossil fuel companies was presented at last year's General Synod. Afterwards, two dioceses passed motions calling on the RCB to divest from all fossil fuels within five years. The debates on the motions stressed the severe impact that greenhouse gas pollution and climate change are having on the world's poor. The RCB listened and responded. They divested from coal, incre

RCB responds to call for divestment from fossil fuels

The following article appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 6th May 2016 From Fossils to Forestry: RCB invests in the future By Sarah Dunne Climate change is an extremely important, complex and topical issue. As the world faces the prospect of population growth to nine billion people by 2050, key issues of sustainability and environmental conservation are being proactively considered by the Representative Church Body (RCB) with respect to the investments it holds on behalf of the Church of Ireland. A particular focus has been given in the past year to developing and implementing a policy in relation to climate change. The Paris summit (COP21) has generated increased momentum around the need to act on climate change and to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with an additional aim to cap this at 1.5°C. The Church of Ireland investment strategy is committed to the support of a transition to a lowcarbon economy through a comprehensi

The Church of Ireland: It's Mission and Prophetic action

I love the Church of Ireland.  It is my spiritual home. The Lord Jesus found me when I was a spiritually wandering teenager, saved me and brought me into a loving church. I was married and had my children baptised there.  The Rev Adrian McCartney taught us about the Holy Spirit and our faith began to burn. Events like Summer Madness and New Wine added spiritual fuel and we were set on fire. I had a burning desire to reach the lost and point them towards the Saviour – Jesus Christ. The Anglican Church stretches far and wide. I've seen vibrant village churches in remote parts of Paraguay and Argentina. On this island, Church of Ireland parishes are woven like a tapestry across the land and into the fabric of society. Our mission to people is to explain the gospel, make disciples, and to help those in need. Our mission to society is to further the Kingdom of God. Each parish and each person has a responsibility to act on mission. To do the stuff. To go to where people are, of

Speech to Synod 2016

I would like to speak about the RCB policy on climate change on page 102 of the Book of Reports. I believe the RCB needs to go back to the drawing board and re-write this policy with the aim of full divestment from fossil fuels by 2020. There are four reasons why this needs rewritten. 1. The policy is indistinct Last December when 195 Countries agreed in Paris to act on climate change, the RCB wrote this policy which begins, "Climate Change and the impact of fossil fuels on the environment are extremely complex." This is a policy that sits on the fence. ( Policy ) 2.  The policy is in error In the second paragraph it states that fossil fuels will, “for the foreseeable future, remain one of the most cost efficient methods of energy production" This is incorrect. Bloomberg reported recently that the cost of wind energy is now cheaper than energy from new coal or gas power stations. The cost of solar power fell by 50% in just 5 years. We need an investmen

The Church of Ireland Policy on Climate Change

The Representative Church Body – Report 2016 APPENDIX E RCB POLICY ON CLIMATE CHANGE Climate Change and the impact of fossil fuels on the environment are extremely complex; as responsible investors the RCB is committed to take account of them in the management of its investment portfolios. The Investment Committee has reviewed its investments in this sector at an individual stock level and in terms of overall exposure as well as its investments and commitments to renewable and/or sustainable energy. The RCB is supportive of public policy to support a diverse energy mix and a transition to a low carbon economy, however, the fact is that fossil fuels will continue to contribute a major component of this energy mix for the foreseeable future and remain one of the most cost efficient methods of energy production. As Christians and responsible investors, the RCB seeks to mitigate and lower the Climate Change impact within our portfolios. The Investment Committee has reviewed t