PRESS RELEASE: United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire divests from fossil fuels
25 March 2019
The United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire has made the decision to end its investments in fossil fuels. It made the decision for ethical reasons, due to the major contribution of fossil fuel companies to climate change and its disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest communities.
It joins more than 1,000 institutions around the world with over £6.5 trillion of assets under management that are part of the global divestment movement. These include nearly half of UK universities including the University of Sheffield, faith-based organisations such as the Church of Ireland, health institutions such as the Royal College of GPs and local councils including Southwark and Waltham Forest.
The URC Synod of Yorkshire became the second of 13 United Reformed Church Synods to divest from fossil fuels, after the URC Synod of Scotland divested in 2015. It decided to make the move as the United Reformed Church prepares to debate its fossil fuel investments at a national level in May this year.
While most UK Churches have made commitments to divest from coal and tar sands, the most polluting fossil fuels, many still invest millions of pounds in oil and gas companies. The United Reformed Church invests in major oil companies including Shell, Total and Chevron.
Campaigners highlight that the major oil companies are continuing to obstruct stronger action on climate change. The Guardian reported last week that the five largest publicly listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200 million (£153 million) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.
Rev Kevin Watson, Moderator of Yorkshire Synod for the United Reformed Church (pictured), said: ‘We have decided to divest from fossil fuels in response to the growing climate crisis. We are very concerned that fossil fuel companies are exploring for new reserves when we need to do all we can to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future. The time to act is now.’
Willie Duncan, a member of the Yorkshire Synod’s Financial Resources Committee who attends St Andrew’s Roundhay URC in Leeds, said: ‘Divesting from fossil fuel companies isn’t just a question of right and wrong – it is also a financially prudent decision. In order to meet the Paris Agreement targets, significant fossil fuel reserves will need to be left in the ground, making these investments over-valued and risking a financial bubble.’
James Buchanan, who works for Christian climate charity Operation Noah on the Bright Now divestment campaign, said: ‘We are delighted that the United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire has taken this step, and we hope that other churches across the UK will join them. It is time for all investors concerned about climate change to get out of the problem and into the solution by divesting from fossil fuels and increasing investments in renewable energy and clean technologies.’
The United Reformed Church Synod of Yorkshire invites churches of all denominations to join them in divesting from fossil fuels as part of the Easter Declaration for Fossil Free Churches on Tuesday 23 April. It also hopes that its decision will give a boost to the wider divestment movement, including the Fossil Free West Yorkshire divestment campaign. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund has an estimated £900 million invested in fossil fuels, including over £500 million in companies with fracking operations.
For more information, please contact:
James Buchanan on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07801 570 653
Notes for editors:
1. Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on climate change. It works with all Christian denominations. http://operationnoah.org/
2. The Yorkshire Synod of the United Reformed Church is a regional group of 98 churches across the Yorkshire area.
3. The United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland committed to full divestment from fossil fuels in 2015. The United Reformed Church Trust, which manages investments for the URC at a national level, has divested from oil and gas companies but continues to invest in major oil and gas companies.
4. Three United Reformed Church Synods – Scotland, South Western and Thames North Synods – have passed resolutions calling on the URC Trust to reconsider its investments in oil and gas companies. These proposals will now be considered at Mission Council in May 2019.
5. More information about the Easter Declaration for Fossil Free Churches, a joint divestment announcement for local churches on Easter Tuesday (23 April), can be found on Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign website: http://brightnow.org.uk/