Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fossil Fuel Divestment Presentation Delivered at the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal

On October 16th, 2015 a fossil fuel divestment motion was passed at the synod of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. Here is the presentation that was delivered in support of the motion.

By Richard Matthews

The Stewardship of the Environment committee's divestment motion is inspired by the call to care for creation. The fifth Mark of Mission and our sixth Baptismal Covenant specifically call us to:

"Safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew life on the earth."

Our advocacy is also premised on a careful review of the scientific, economic and financial data.

Our position is born out of the response to two questions:

Should we be seeking to profit from an industry whose core business threatens the planet and its inhabitants?


Are fossil fuels a good financial investment?

The science is clear: fossil fuels are the leading cause of both climate change and air pollution, which are killing millions each year as well as causing heart disease, cancer and respiratory problems like asthma. A report by Lancet and University College London concluded: “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

Simply put, the ongoing exploitation of fossil fuels will create a practically uninhabitable planet. It is not overstating the case to say that the continued use of fossil fuels threatens humanity and the entire global ecosystem.

We know that to stave off the worst impacts of climate change we must keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Canada's known fossil fuel reserves are at least three times what can be burned if we are to stay within this limit.

In preparing our motion, we carefully considered different approaches. We could find no evidence to support the efficacy of engaging with fossil fuel companies. The relatively small size of our holdings give us little leverage as far as shareholder resolutions are concerned. Asking fossil fuel companies to change their core business activity is like asking Starbucks to stop serving coffee.

After considerable study we came to the conclusions the approach that produces the best results is one that includes specific actionable plans. That is why we opted for a motion that calls us to divest form the Carbon Underground 200, a list of the largest and dirtiest companies on earth.

Divestment is not a panacea, but it is an important symbolic step that will inspire. It will also send a message to young people and others about the relevance of Anglicanism and the power of putting our faith into action.

Climate change is an important social justice issue. The underprivileged who have done the least to cause the climate crisis, are the ones who will suffer the most. Just as our pursuit of racial justice called us to divest from the Apartheid regime, our pursuit of climate justice calls us to divest from fossil fuels. As explained by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change."

Moving from ethical to strictly financial considerations, divestment is also part of a bottom line-driven investment strategy. The values of our fossil fuel holdings have been plummeting and the latest projections suggest that the price of oil will stay low for the foreseeable future. There is good reason to believe that divestment will improve the value of our holdings (and certainly decrease their volatility). A number of reports show that those who have divested from fossil fuels are getting better rates of return than conventional investors.

While our motion focuses on divestment from fossil fuels we also support investing in clean energy. All around the world, renewable energy is proving to be up to the task of powering our future while providing very attractive rates of return.

Studies show that the cost of moving away from fossil fuels will be far less than the cost of inaction. A recent Canadian report further indicates that there are far more economic and employment benefits from renewable energy than there are from fossil fuels.

Millions of people and thousands of organizations support the divestment movement. Thus far a total of 2.6 trillion dollars has been divested from fossil fuels. Over the course of 2015 there has been a 50-fold increase in divestment from ordinary citizens, investment groups, pension funds, philanthropic organizations and educational institutions. Students at a number of Canadian universities have also voted to divest, including students at both Concordia and McGill.

A broad spectrum of faith organizations worldwide are lending moral weight to divestment. To date 126 faith based groups have divested a total of $24 billion; this includes the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Canada, the Lutheran World Federation of churches, the Uniting Church, the United Church of Christ, the Church of Sweden, the Canadian Unitarian Council, Montreal Quakers and countless individual parishes.

The World Council of Churches, which counts Anglicans among its 350 denominations, supports divestment and it has encouraged its 500 million members to do the same. The Church of England has released investment guidelines that include a divestment option and a number of Diocese in New Zealand and Australia have already passed divestment motions at their annual synods. The Diocese of Ottawa will present a divestment motion in November.

We call on you our Anglican brothers and sisters to stand with those who are standing up for the health of our planet, our people and our finances.

The choices we make today will have a profound impact on the world of tomorrow.

The good news is that we still have time to act, but we must act now.

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." In this context, divestment is a hopeful investment in our future.

I leave you with the following questions:

Will our children and grandchildren ask why you didn't act? Or will they ask how you found the moral courage to change?

Related Coverage of the Divestment Motion in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal
Montreal Anglicans Vote to Divest from Fossil Fuels
Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels
The Anglican Diocese of Montreal Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels
Facts Sheet: Five FAQ about the Motion to Divest from Fossil Fuels in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal
Report on Faith Based Divestment from Fossil Fuels
Why I Support the Divestment from Fossil Fuels Motion in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal
Climate Change and Faith: Why We Are Asking the Diocese to Divest from Fossil Fuel
United Church of Canada Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels
A Role Call of Faith Groups Divesting from Fossil Fuels
Faith Communities Divest Holdings in Fossil Fuel Industry
Why Faith Communities Must Divest from Fossil Fuels
The Religious Imperative for Fossil Fuel Divestment and Reinvestment in a Clean Energy Future
Church of England Adopts New Climate Change and Ethical Investment Policy that Includes Divestment
Episcopal Church Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels as a Moral Issue
WCC at International Divestment Conference in Paris
Divestment and Reinvestment Resource: Fossil Free Faith

No comments:

Post a Comment