Church of Scotland votes to keep fossil fuel investment

Pleas for the Kirk to divest its money from oil and gas companies in two years time, or sooner, have been rejected at the 2018 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Kirk discussion on oil and gas investments provoked long debate.

Instead delegates voted to keep investments in fossil fuel companies so the Church of Scotland would still have “a seat at the table” to

persuade companies to seek alignment with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

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Around eight per cent of the Church of Scotland’s Investors Trust £272.2 million Growth Fund is invested in oil and gas companies.

It is managed by Newton Investment Management in line with the current ethical guidelines of the Kirk’s Investors Trust.

This includes not investing in any funds which have more than 15 per cent of their shares in oil or gas company.

Earlier, Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, and minister at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, presented a report recommending building up a non-gas and oil investment portfolio over the next two years and then divesting from fossil fuels.

“We find it deeply uncomfortable that the Church, as an organisation concerned about climate justice, is investing in something which causes the very harm we seek to alleviate.”

However, some delegates said two years was too long.

Rev Jennifer Adams, minister at Duffus, Spynie and Hopeman in Moray,who proposed more urgent action, said: “Business models of oil companies are showing no sign of change. Engagement is not working.”

In the end delegates voted in favour of Very Rev Albert Bogle, a former Moderator, to retain oil and gas investments.

“We need more robust engagement . Let’s be the thorn of the flesh of the oil companies.”

The Scottish Charity Regulator, OSCR, says a charity - the Kirk is a registered charity - should not invest in a sector inconsistent with its purposes even if this impacts on its investment portfolio.

In 2016 the General Assembly agreed to explore how to alter the Kirk’s existing investment policies and move towards a low carbon global economy.

The General Assembly also took the decision that year to stop investing in tar sands and thermal coal production. It also no longer invests in tobacco or alcohol.