The Church of Scotland has voted this afternoon to stop investing in energy companies causing the worst climate pollution.

The motion, approved by the General Assembly today in Edinburgh, compels the Church’s investment funds to withdraw from companies significantly involved in tar sands, a highly destructive form of oil extraction, and coal (1).

A petition begun by Church of Scotland members and calling for complete divestment from fossil fuels received almost 3,000 names in just over three weeks (2).

But the motion agreed today stops short of divestment from all fossil fuels, the approach taken by the University of Glasgow and the United Reform Church in Scotland, who have pledged to go completely fossil free (3).

Newly elected MSP Ross Greer campaigned on the issue as a member of the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly. He said:

“The Church of Scotland has been at the forefront of campaigns on everything from tax dodging to tackling climate change. Our faith compels us to act when we see injustice and that should be no clearer than in the case of the fossil fuel industry.

“This isn’t just about giving future generations a planet worth living on; millions of people are being affected by climate change today and they are not the people who have caused it. The Church is rightly campaigning for climate justice but we must start by ensuring our own house is in order and divest from fossil fuels.”

Ric Lander, Friends of the Earth Scotland said:

“Fossil fuels are destroying communities across the world and wrecking the earth’s climate. Their extraction threatens our collective future.

“Profiting from companies which are wrecking our future cannot be fitting for an organisation that stands for global justice. Divestment from the worst fossil fuels is welcome, but the Church of Scotland should go further and go completely fossil free.”

Gillian Cummins, Church of Scotland member in the Ross of Mull and co-founder of the petition said:

“The urgency of this situation is such that it must take precedence. To continue with the status quo is to be complicit in the devastation of land, homes and livelihoods, as well as threatening our children’s future through runaway climate change.

“Is it truly the will of congregations across the country, that the Kirk’s money is being invested in petroleum companies and fracking projects?”

James Buchanan, divestment campaigner for the Christian climate change charity Operation Noah said:

“We are delighted that the Church of Scotland has decided to divest from coal and tar sands companies.

“This follows last year’s decision of the United Reformed Church in Scotland to fully divest from fossil fuel companies, and marks a significant first step in aligning its investments with its moral responsibility to take action on climate change.”

Notes

1. The motion on divestment reads: “Proposed deliverance… [to] Urge the Trustees of the Church of Scotland Investors Trust and the Church of Scotland Pension Fund not to invest in companies which derive more than 15% of their turnover from extraction and/or sale of thermal coal and/or oil extracted from tar sands.” After considerable debate a counter-motion for total divestment from fossil fuels fell.

2. A petition was begun on the website 38 Degrees by a member of the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly, Tara Shannon: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/church-of-scotland-divestment

3. United Reform Church in Scotland: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/27/united-reformed-churc… University of Glasgow: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/08/glasgow-becomes-first…

4. The Church of Scotland issued a statement about today’s vote here: http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/recent/general_a…

5. Free images to accompany this story can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/albums/721576686…

6. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is a growing international movement calling on institutions to divest (sell their shares) from fossil fuels to take action against catastrophic climate change. Find out more at www.foe-scotland.org.uk/divest

7. Unofficial estimates put the Church of Scotland’s total investments in fossil fuels at £15 million. The true figure has not been made public: http://brightnow.org.uk/opinion/neighbours-counting-us/

8. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk