Yes, liquidating pension fund investments in fossil fuel companies is not a popular course of action. The moral justification for doing so it clear: the continued consumption of fossil fuels is dooming the earth that our grandchildren – and their grandchildren – will ultimately inherit.
But on the practical level –- managers of these funds are worried that they may be selling investments that could be “winners” over the next several years. Particularly in Canada where the energy sector is a large percentage of the equity market, diversification is a good cushion against investment risks.
The managers are legitimately concerned with the ability of the pension fund to provide pensions to the many hundreds of clergy who have served the Church and have no other financial assets apart from their pension.
The last time the issue of divestment came up at an Anglican Church of Canada Synod, Alberta delegates objected that rejection of fossil fuel companies was an implied criticism of the many Albertans who worked for these companies. And that was unacceptable.
So, nothing was done, and the result was that the Anglican Church has not taken the moral high ground. But two Dioceses, Ottawa and Montreal, have divested from pension funds.
Other churches have not succumbed to the economic pressure. The United Church of Canada has divested. The Roman Catholic Church world wide has massively divested. The Church of England divested from coal mining companies and companies invested in the tar sands.
A recent academic study by Harvard University shows that Exxon knew about the risks of climate change in the 1970s, yet misled the public for decades. It says that the company sought to cast doubt on the climate science, taking out paid editorials in major US newspapers questioning whether global warming was real and caused by humans. Exxon’s board of directors has advised shareholders to vote against all resolutions on climate change since 1990.
They have demanded that the Church of England move immediately to divest from Exxon Mobil.
The Anglican Church of Canada cannot pause in divestment . . . it cannot dither. Such ambivalence erodes the convictions of individual Anglican families, and for that the Church will pay a price in the future.
So we ask you, no matter what church you attend, to meet with your church’s finance committee and urge them to accelerate their move towards divestment.
See also the views expressed in previous 4RG blogs: