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.
The Church of Scotland has voted against divestment from oil and gas companies. More than half of its commissioners voted for continued engagement with oil and gas companies after a two hour debate at its General Assembly.
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.”
An official motion proposed that, following an assessment, divestment should begin in two years but the Reverend Jenny Adams proposed a grassroots motion to begin divesting immediately. These two motions combined received 47 percent of votes.
"Change is not coming fast enough"
Reverend 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.”
Ric Lander, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “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.
"However, during a debate infused with depth, urgency and sincerity there was bountiful support for radical action on climate change and a speedy and just transition to a 100 percent renewable economy.
“The Church must now consider how it can most effectively use its time and money to offer a response befitting of the strength of feeling in the Assembly.”
James Buchanan of Operation Noah, a charity which campaigns for UK churches to divest from fossil fuels, said: “While we are disappointed with the outcome of the vote at Church of Scotland General Assembly, we are encouraged by the level of support for divestment from oil and gas companies and the consensus on the need for climate justice.
"Churches, along with other investors, should divest from fossil fuels to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and ensure that the vision of the Paris Agreement becomes a reality. The time to act is now.”
On 19 April the moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, joined other faith leaders in Scotland to call for the Scottish Government to make its forthcoming Climate Change Bill more ambitious.
Catherine Harte is a contributing editor to The Ecologist. This story is based on a news release from Friends of the Earth Scotland.