The Church of Scotland has voted against plans to divest its £443m portfolio from oil and gas companies
Green campaigners have hit out at the Church of Scotland after it voted against a bid to divest from oil and gas companies at its General Assembly this week.
The church has an investment fund of around £443m, bringing in an income of around £4m a year.
After a debate lasting over two hours on Wednesday, 53% voted for continued engagement with oil and gas companies, while 47% backed one of two motions for divestment from oil and gas. If just 19 people had voted differently, there would have been a majority in favour of divestment.
Ric Lander of Friends of the Earth Scotland commented: “To those suffering from the abuses of oil companies around the world it’s a blow that the Church of Scotland didn't start divesting from oil companies today.”
Ross Greer, a West of Scotland MSP for the Green Party and prominent member of the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly, said the church has failed to support those suffering from the climate crisis and assert itself as a champion of social, environmental and economic justice.
He said: “Critical engagement with oil and gas companies has got us nowhere, these are same companies responsible for this crisis and who actively suppressed the evidence of the damage they were doing for decades. Yet again we will deal with the consequences of a problem rather than solve the problem itself.
“The Kirk had opportunities to join others including Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, New York City and a growing number of other churches in facing up to reality and doing our part to tackle this crisis. Instead heads have once again been buried in the sand as we approach the tipping point, beyond which climate change cannot be stopped.”
The Church of Scotland committed to divest from coal companies in 2016.
The official Church report stated: "It is deeply uncomfortable for the Church, as a caring organisation concerned about climate justice, to continue to invest in something which causes the very harm it seeks to alleviate.”
At this week’s General Assembly, an official motion proposed that, following an assessment, divestment should begin in two years. The Reverend Jenny Adams proposed a grassroots motion to begin divesting now. These two motions combined received 47% of votes.
A motion supporting continued shareholder engagement gained 53% of votes.
Rev Adams said: “The evidence suggests that oil and gas companies have little intention of changing fast enough to get close to making the Paris Climate Change agreement. There is a need for climate emissions to peak by 2020 and if we just keep talking, too much time passes and change is not coming fast enough.”
However she added: “To hear the Church overwhelmingly back the need to tackle climate change, wherever they stood on the argument for divestment, was positive.”