Divestment – where do the Churches stand today?

The Federal budget released yesterday (March 23)  included a very minor change to provisions of the Income Tax Act that allowed companies to fully deduct exploration expenses (seismic testing, exploratory drilling etc.) from revenue in the year in which these expenses were occurred.  Now these expenses can only  be deducted over time – unless the expenses did not result in an operating well.

The response of the fossil fuel industry was quick and sharp.  Using the words of the Globe and Mail headline: “Energy Firms decry tax clampdown”.  To quote an industry executive: “ It’s going to inhibit Western Canada’s ability to grow.”

Our concern is: if such a minor change in the tax laws has this effect, what is the advantage in a continuing long term investment in the fossil fuels industry?   Future changes will have to be much more stringent!

It is time to re-visit the issue of Divestment.   Here is a score card on the responses of Churches around the world to the issue.

“Environmental activists and people with climate change anxiety have something to cheer about after the United Church of Canada, the country’s second-largest Christian denomination, voted to divest its shares in any and all fossil fuel companies. The church has also decided to “commit financially to transitioning to an economy based on renewable energy.”

The fossil fuel divestment movement just keeps on growing. On Thursday, the Church of England announced it had sold £12m in two of the most polluting fossil fuels, tar sands oil and thermal coal.”

The leadership of the Episcopal church has voted to withdraw from fossil fuel holdings as a means of fighting climate change, delivering an important symbolic victory to environmental campaigners. Two weeks after the pope’s pastoral letter on the environment, the divestment decision by a major US Protestant denomination underscored that climate change is increasingly seen by religious leaders as a deeply moral issue.”

“The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same.””

“. . . . a number of faith groups have moved toward divesting from fossil fuels, and Anglican Church of Canada Primate Fred Hiltz and ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson both felt the session might provide a good opportunity for members of both churches’ national councils to discuss divestment  . . “

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