Church of England to Divest Companies Not Backing Paris Climate Deal

(Bloomberg) -- The Church of England took another step in prodding companies to adopt a green strategy, saying its 12 billion pounds ($16 billion) in funds will divest those that aren’t aligning themselves with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The church’s governing General Synod passed a motion proposed by Canon Giles Goddard of its environmental working group committing the organization to sell shares in companies that haven’t lined up with the Paris goals by 2023, according to a statement.

“Today’s decision, including the amendment by Giles Goddard, will allow us to continue to push for real change in the oil and gas sector and use engagement, our voting rights and rights to file shareholder resolutions to drive the change we want to see,” said a spokesman.

The Church of England has been a loud advocate for action on environmental issues in recent years. It has challenged Exxon Mobil Corp. and Glencore Plc on how they should disclose data relevant to their strategies on climate change. In 2015, it vowed to sell some of its holdings in the most polluting fossil fuels including coal producers and oil sands.

Last year, the church voted to approve a non-binding resolution that would force Exxon to publish detailed analysis on how limits on carbon emissions could affect the value of its assets. In 2016, the church filed a resolution seeking disclosure of climate data at Glencore’s shareholder meeting, winning the support of 98 percent of shareholders.

The religious body invests through several vehicles, including the Church of England Pensions Board, the Church Commissioners and the CBF Church of England Funds. The commissioners, the body’s endowment fund, manage 8.3 billion pounds.

“I am sympathetic to Canon Goddard’s amendment because 2023 accords better with our strategy,” said David Walker, bishop of Manchester and deputy chair of the Church Commissioners. “It gives engagement the time it needs.”

The Church of England is also involved in the Transition Pathway Initiative, an organization that assesses whether companies are prepared and able to transition to a lower-carbon economy. It was established last year and counts asset owners with $9.3 trillion under management as members.

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