Tell the Church of England to Get out of (S)hell

Christian Climate Action has organised an open letter from a group of clergy to the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board asking them to divest from all fossil fuels immediately.

A vigil is being held outside Church House at 10am on Tuesday 18 May, the day of the Shell AGM, to pray for the two National Investing Bodies to stop investing in Shell and to invest instead in funds that promote the common good.

Why are we doing this?

  • It is morally wrong to invest in the decimation of creation.
  • In July 2018, the Synod agreed to divest unless certain conditions were met. We don’t believe that they have been (see more information below).
  • The reason the Church gives for investment is that by engaging with the oil companies they are helping transform society, yet at the Shell AGM on 18 May the Pensions Board intends to vote against a shareholder resolution asking for Shell to align its investments with the Paris targets. 
  • General Synod, February 2020, agreed that the Church would reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Although not legally bound by this decision, we would have expected that the Church Commissioners would understand that General Synod was expressing the will of the Church and that this will should be reflected in the decisions made by the Church Commissioners. 

How can you get involved

  • Sign the 38 degrees petition
  • Come to the vigil on 18th May. More information to follow soon. Can’t get to London? Pray with us from wherever you are! Revd Jon Swales has written a prayer for this occasion.
  • Write your own letter to the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board based on the ‘why’ points above or/and our open letter, with more details below, to:

Church Commissioners for England
Church House
31 Great Smith Street


Church of England Pensions Board
PO Box 2026
WR10 9BW

What did the Church of England Synod Agree to Do?

In July 2018, the Synod agreed:

‘to divest by 2023 from oil and gas companies not on track to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and that that the Church would begin in 2020 to divest from companies ‘not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy’.

But how is the Church of England measuring whether oil and gas companies are on track?

Compliance with the Paris agreement is measured using the highly respected Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), co-founded by the Church of England National Investing Bodies. But look what the most recent report, Fossil fuel giants still aiming wide of 2°C mark, investors say, from TPI says:

  • ‘It found that [no oil companies] are yet on track to align their emissions with a 2°C climate pathway by 2050′
  • ‘Five oil and gas companies and two coal companies are on track to align with the emissions pledges made by countries as part of the Paris Agreement’
  • BUT – alignment with emissions pledges have nothing to do with a safe climate – they are simply in line with what the UK said in 2015 they would do – which, added up with commitments from the rest of the world, would still take us beyond 3 degrees and into climate free-fall.
  • AND these aren’t even emissions, they are emission intensity – which is fine if we have a planet whose carbon sinks are increasing at the same rate as the companies’ financial performance.

There’s also the sad fact that the Church still has investments in Exxon, which we know is unrepentant for its climate deception over decades.

To find out more about how oil companies are ‘Paris defiant’ see the following report produced by Operation Noah and Bright Now: Church investments in major oil companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant?

More on Shell and the AGM

Shell’s AGM is 10am Dutch time on 18 May. There are two resolutions that concern us.

RESOLUTION 20 – Shell’s Energy Transition Resolution: That the Shell Energy Transition Strategy, which is published on the Shell website (, be approved. 

RESOLUTION 21 Shareholder resolution filed by Follow This: Shareholders support the company to set and publish targets that are consistent with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement: to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.

Proper truthful engagement would vote against Resolution 20 and for Resolution 21. The Church Commissioners plan to vote the opposite way, with the directors, so for the Energy Transition Strategy, and against the call the Shell sets targets consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Both the Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC), and Britain’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) are advising shareholders to vote against Shell’s resolution to approve its energy transition strategy and for Follow This’s Resolution 21.

Reclaim Finance wrote an open letter to Shell investors on engagement. This has a nice summary of why Shell’s Energy Transition Strategy is no good:

‘Shell’s emission reduction targets are intensity-based rather than absolute and, despite the need to wind down oil and gas production, the company plans to continue to invest billions of dollars in upstream oil and gas and excludes petrochemicals from its targets. Shell plans to increase its gas production significantly, to reach over half of its business by 2030.

Shell justifies such high levels of fossil fuel production betting on an improbable scale-up of carbon capture and storage and of offsets.

Moreover, according to last month’s Climate Action 100+ analysis of 159 companies’ climate ambitions, Shell have failed to set medium-term targets or goals consistent with a global reduction in emissions of 45 per cent by 2030 relative to 2010 levels.’

Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, James Buchanan, said, “There are major issues with Shell’s plans to rely heavily on carbon-offsetting, which is problematic from an environmental and human-rights perspective. These plans are Paris-defiant, not Paris-compliant.”

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