Ethical Hub: Policy Statement - Climate change – Implications for different fuels

Preamble

The Methodist Church is seriously concerned that climate change is already causing suffering to many people and threatens millions more with misery over the coming decades. It also threatens vulnerable eco-systems and many species with extinction.

The Methodist Church’s theological approach to climate change is set out in the report Hope in God’s Future: Christian Discipleship in the Context of Climate Change. It recognises that:

  • the suffering caused by climate change is disproportionately greater for the poor and vulnerable;
  • supporting our standard of living at the expense of the misery of others, both now and in the future, contravenes the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves;
  • riches gained at the expense of irreparable damage to the environment do not constitute wise stewardship of God’s creation.

The Methodist Church accepts the authoritative scientific research produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shows that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human economic activity are the major cause of climate change.

The Methodist Church supports the goal of reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This is in the context of reducing global emissions by the 50% considered necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It recognises that to meet its share of this reduction, Church policy in many areas, including investment, will need to be reviewed.

The Methodist Church is looking at means to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 80% reduction by 2050. The 2009 Methodist Conference specifically noted the need to assess the travel policies and energy use and efficiency of the Church. It also seeks to support its members in reducing their carbon footprints. The Church has not directed individual churches and circuits either to commit or omit broad areas of activity as a result of their greenhouse gas emissions.

CFB Climate Change Policy

The CFB Climate Change Policy (November 2009) sets out the following objectives:

To reflect the Methodist Church’s positions and actions on climate change within our portfolios.

To create and manage portfolios with a carbon footprint that is relatively low and measurably declining.

To consider, not only the absolute level of a company’s emissions, but also the intensity of those emissions relative to a company’s size. This should include the emissions of the supply chain as well as those involved in the use of the company’s products.

To encourage all companies and particularly those with a high level of carbon intensity, to disclose their greenhouse gas emission levels accurately. This should include those of their supply chains, including transport.

To encourage all companies to limit and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and intensity resulting from their own processes, their supply chains and the use of their products.

To encourage companies in sectors with high relative levels of greenhouse gas emissions to act and invest to reduce those emissions, and to monitor these efforts.

To maximise the impact of engagement with companies in relation to climate change. This will include collaboration with other investors or investor groups mainly through a process of dialogue and may include shareholder resolutions and representations to government.

To consider disinvestment as the appropriate response when companies are either unwilling to enter into dialogue or if it proves to be ineffective.

To consider avoiding whole areas of economic activity as unacceptable if it appears that involvement with such activities and profiting from them is contrary to the teaching of the Methodist Church.

Key Issues

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that 65% of global greenhouse gas emissions were CO2 released by burning fossil fuels. The UK government’s Committee on Climate Change estimates that 85% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions arise from the production of energy from fossil fuels.

The average emissions intensity per unit of energy of coal and oil produced from tar sands is significantly greater than that from conventional oil, which is itself significantly greater than that from natural gas. Nuclear and renewable sources of energy have much lower emissions per unit of energy.

The need for significant reductions in global emissions and more significant reductions in UK emissions implies that there is a need for sustained reductions in the level of combustion of fossil fuels for energy. The reductions in the levels of combustion will need to be both larger and earlier for the more polluting fuels (i.e. coal and oil produced from tar sands).

As emissions reductions requirements become more onerous, ever greater reductions will be needed in the levels of combustion of all fossil fuels. If emissions decrease less rapidly than envisaged at first, it will imply that more rapid emissions reductions targets would be needed in later years.

Fossil fuels are internationally traded, so it is difficult to differentiate between fossil fuel extraction in developing economies and those in developed economies.

All forms of energy whether fossil fuel, nuclear or renewable have practical and other advantages and disadvantages unrelated to their emissions intensity.

Policy

The CFB has adopted this Policy, based on the Position Paper: Climate Change Implications for Different Fuels:

In respect of the fuel extraction, primary energy production and related industries:

  • to reflect the Methodist Church’s positions and actions on climate change within our investments, and our voting
  • to engage with companies to encourage accurate disclosure of their overall levels of emissions and emissions intensity;
  • to engage with companies to encourage them to limit and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and intensity resulting from their own processes, their supply chains and the use of their products;
  • to engage with companies to encourage them to invest in such a way that it is consistent with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed markets by 80% by 2050 and globally by 50% by 2050, recognising that a substantial proportion of fossil fuel reserves will need to remain unexploited;
  • to evaluate companies based on the quality of disclosure of their emissions and emissions intensity, the levels of their emissions and emissions intensity and the implications of their business models and investment plans for future emissions reductions;
  • to seek investments that contribute to or facilitate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

To recognise that companies which provide equipment and services to the extractive industries should be viewed similarly to the companies they serve.

To recognise that the following would be inconsistent with the positions and actions of the Methodist Church and may lead to exclusion:

  • investment plans that have a significant proportion devoted to tar sands or thermal coal production and would therefore imply a low probability of meeting emissions reduction targets;
  • business models dedicated to exploring for and developing new assets which imply a low probability of meeting emissions reduction targets;
  • companies in which a significant proportion of revenues is derived from the extraction of thermal coal and tar sands and would therefore be inconsistent with the CFB policy to have portfolios with relatively low and measurably declining carbon footprints.

To evaluate companies based on all aspects of their operations, including their lobbying, health & safety, local environmental impacts and human rights record as well as their impact on climate change.

March 2015