Bishop Graham: ‘levering change’ through the Church of England’s investments
In an interview with Net Zero Investor, Bishop Graham outlines what is next for the Church of England’s net zero journey.
Only in June, the Church of England Pensions Board offloaded its stake in supermajor Shell as it declared that it was looking to end all its investments in the oil and gas sector.
The board’s decision to entirely divest from the sector was seen as an exceptional move by the Church of England due to its usual approach of engaging with investee companies. Examples of this include its engagement with ExxonMobil, which resulted in the company changing 25% of its board.
Commenting on this decision in a Net Zero Investor Better World Interview sponsored by CCLA, Bishop Graham of Norwich, who leads the Church of England’s Environment Programme, explains that the church is “now going to divest from fossil fuels this year because against the criteria none of these carbon-emitting firms was compliant with the Paris agreement.
“So, they [the Church of England Pensions Board] are now excluding oil and gas companies. The door is open as if they come into alignment in the future investments could happen again, but I think that is very unlikely.
“We are looking at this within our environmental, social and governance portfolio and taking this whole area very seriously.”
The £3.2bn Church of England Pensions Board provides retirement housing and pensions, set by the Church of England, for those who have served or worked for the church. The Church of England’s General Synod has set a target of reaching net zero carbon by 2030, whereas the pensions board has committed to a 2050 target.
In his interview, Bishop Graham highlights that the next step for the Church of England is to assess whether its investments with companies outside of the oil and gas sector are in line with its net zero ambitions.
“We are looking at how our investments can continue to lever change, so not only through the church commissioners’ investments but more local investments in terms of dioceses and parishes. How we can build into those investments wider advocacy for addressing climate change.
“So, our focus has been very much on oil and gas companies, but how can we look at every company’s carbon record and exclude activities that we don't believe are going to be part of this just transition,” he explains.