Christians protest with fake oil outside Church House as Shell AGM takes place

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This morning around 16 Christians gathered in vigil outside Church House to pray for the Church of England’s Pensions Board and the Church Commissioners and to perform a dramatic street theatre. As part of the action, ‘oil’ was poured over members of clergy to acknowledge that the National Investing Bodies’ continued investment in fossil fuel is co-opting them in the destruction of creation as the climate crisis worsens. The vigil was livestreamed on Facebook.

The vigil follows an open letter, signed by nineteen members of the clergy and sent by Christian Climate Action to the National Investing Bodies (NIBs) last week. The letter calls on the Church Commissioners and the Pensions Board to stop investing in Shell and to redirect their investments towards funds that promote the common good. The vigil coincided with Shell’s AGM at which the Pensions Board had indicated they planned to vote against a shareholder resolution asking for Shell to take meaningful action to align its investment with the Paris climate targets. 

In July 2018, General Synod of the Church of England agreed to divest unless certain conditions were met. They have not been met; Shell plans to continue to invest billions of dollars in oil and gas exploration and production as well as excluding petrochemicals from its targets. In February 2020, the Synod agreed that the Church would reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Although the Church Commissioners were not legally bound by this decision, the General Synod was expressing the will of the Church and this will should be reflected in the decisions made by the Church Commissioners. 

Revd Sue Parfitt said: “The Church Commissioners may be of the belief that engagement with fossil fuel companies will influence their decisions, but surely this is delusional. It is perfectly clear that Shell’s net zero strategy includes investment in new oil exploration and gas pumping of $8bn a year, with only between $2bn and $3bn for renewables and an unrealistic reliance on tree planting and carbon capture technologies. Although the Church may see its purchasing power as significant, it is a drop in the ocean to the oil and gas companies. A far stronger message would be made by selling the shares.”

Revd Hilary Bond said: “It is morally wrong to invest in the decimation of creation. We are in a climate emergency which requires that we stop extracting and burning fossil fuels. Engagement with Shell as shareholders has not worked and it is time to urgently divest.” 

Watch the livestream on Facebook

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