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. 

The ethical hole in the Clergy Pensions Fund is there because it invests directly in oil, gas, and petroleum infrastructure companies, and indirectly through grouped investments such as bonds that are not fossil free. The depth of this ethical hole is hard to determine because the RCB does not publish full investment portfolios that include carbon-intensity. Perhaps the RCB might consider publishing full investment portfolios for each fund in 2017.

I trust that participants in the Clergy Pensions Fund do not want their pension to cause harm to human health. The British Medical Association divested fully from fossil fuels in 2014. Is it not time that Church of Ireland investments were fossil free?


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