Magazine article Anglican Journal

Synods Divest from Fossil Fuels

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Synods Divest from Fossil Fuels

Article excerpt

A majority of delegates from synods of the diocese of Montreal and the diocese of Ottawa recently voted to divest from fossil fuels, joining 430 other institutions and 2,040 individuals representing $2.6 trillion in assets who have chosen to pull fossil fuel stocks from their investment portfolios.

While many faith organizations already have policies in place to prevent investments in tobacco, alcohol, weapons, gambling or pornography, as awareness about climate change becomes more widespread--and concern over its effects more heightened--an increasing number of churches are choosing to divest from the fossil fuel industry as well. In May, the Church of England's governing body moved to sell its 12-million pound ($24 million Cdn) investment in coal and tar sands.

"We know what the effects [of climate change] are now," said Lenore Fahrig, a biology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, who led the environmental group that helped bring the divestment resolution to the Ottawa synod on October 31. "And we know how to stop it--and we know why we're not stopping it, which does come down, essentially, to money."

It logically followed, she said, that money would be the place to start when looking for ways to respond to the crisis. While only about $1 million--less than 10% of the diocese of Ottawa's total investments--were tied up in coal, oil and natural gas, the amount of money was only part of the point.

"I think it's a way of putting pressure on governments. It's a symbolic act in the sense that symbols can be very powerful," she said.

Does divestment have any effect on the actual fossil fuels industry? "It's a public statement, and it is an effort to influence public opinion and public policy," Fahrig said. The power of divestment lies in the number of people choosing to divest, and the message that sends to governments.

While it is not yet clear how much money the diocese of Montreal has invested in fossil fuels, its synod--held October l6-17--passed a resolution urging the finance committee "to take, in a timely manner, all reasonable measures in its power" to divest from companies trading in coal, oil and natural gas. A press release on November 4 notes that "delegates were told that the diocese does have holdings in such companies but diocesan staff could not provide details right away. …

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