Unitarians disinvest from fossil fuels

4 May 2021

Church votes to review its investments, moving away from oil and gas companies

At the online AGM of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian churches on 24th April, members voted overwhelmingly to disinvest from companies whose turnover is more than 10% from oil and gas.

The motion was proposed by Stephen Lingwood, pioneer minister in Cardiff. He said “In the year of COP26 in Glasgow I’ve very happy that my denomination has made this commitment to help tackle the climate emergency. Divestment is one of the tools available to us to push the world towards a zero carbon future. My faith calls on me to love God, and to love my neighbour, and loving my global neighbour means making sure people in Pacific Island nations and elsewhere still have homes to live in. That will only happen if we keep global temperatures below a 1.5C rise.”

Also speaking in the debate was Professor Geoff Levermore, a Unitarian and Nobel prize winning climate scientist. He said “Some consider that we may already have gone past the tipping point with climate change, as the polar ice caps are losing ice so quickly now. Covid will be easier to solve than climate change and all countries need to respond, especially the developed ones. Fossil fuel companies, like water companies, should pay for the pollution of CO2 just as water companies pay for the sewage disposal.”

The resolution requests that the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches does not invest in companies whose total turnover is more than 10% derived from the extraction and/or supply of fossil fuels, and that the divestment is fulfilled by 2025. It encourages Unitarian congregations, which are independent and autonomous, and other Unitarian funds to do the same.

The resolution builds on a long history of climate activism in the church, with previous agreements to tackle climate change and protect the environment going back to the 1970s. A number of Unitarian individuals and congregations have in recent years been actively involved in climate change campaigns such as Extinction Rebellion. The GA has £6.3m of investments, currently managed by Newton Investment Management.

Stephen Lingwood is minister of Cardiff Unitarians / Undodiaid Caerdydd and author of “Seeking Paradise: A Unitarian mission for our times”, published by the Lindsey Press, the Unitarian community-run imprint in 2020, available from our bookshop.

Professor Geoff Levermore was part of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) working group that received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and is Emeritus Professor of the University of Manchester.

News of the Unitarians and other churches disinvesting from fossil fuels has been reported in the Church Times, BusinessGreen, DeSmog, Premier Christian News, Independent Catholic NewsNational Catholic Reporter and Edie.