A fossil free Church of Ireland

Speech to General Synod on 17 May 2019,

I’d like to draw Synod’s attention to the investment performance in 2018 on pages 30 and 31. It was a difficult year but the RCB investment committee and staff must be thanked for their superb work on behalf of the church. The returns from invested funds help to support the mission and ministry of the church.

This reminds me that last year synod passed a motion to fully divest from all fossil fuels by 2022.

Actually, following that successful motion, a member of our Diocesan Council asked me how he could ethically invest his retirement lump sum. I told him that his investment manager could exclude unethical investments like fossil fuels. Six months later, he told me his investment manager had looked into it the options and was himself surprised to find out that green investment packages had performed better than traditional ones. He was going to recommend to other clients that they too should exclude fossil fuels.

New evidence produced by the IPCC in the last year shows we only have 11 years to cut worldwide emissions in half to prevent a dangerous climate crisis. Mark Carney, the chairman of the Bank of England, said in March we need an “urgent reallocation of capital”.

Coming back to page 31 in the Book of Reports, the ESG review of 2018. The motion that passed at last year’s Synod encouraged the RCB to continue collaborative engagement, to increase green investments, and to exclude all fossil fuel producers by 2022.

But the review on page 31 fails to mention the motion that passed at Synod 2018. In fact, I think is not mentioned anywhere in this year’s Book of Reports at all. I do hope that this oversight will be corrected in due course.

The good news is that collaborative engagement has continued, the RCB’s green investments now exceed those of fossil fuels by a considerable margin. And the RCB now only directly invests in just one fossil fuel producer.

Over the next year, a comprehensive review of both direct and indirect investments is needed to align the RCB policy to the will of Synod and finish the job.

We are almost there. I hope that this time next year I can tell you that we no longer invest in extracting fossil fuels from the ground, that we do the right thing and keep it the in the ground.

I hope that in 2020, I can tell you that the Church of Ireland is a fossil free church.


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