Church of England blacklists coal and tar sands investments

Pilita Clark

The Church of England, one of the world’s wealthiest religious institutions, has decided to blacklist coal and tar sands investments, in a striking victory for campaigners seeking to make fossil fuels as unpopular as tobacco.

The Church announced on Thursday that it would sell £12m of its holdings in thermal coal and tar sands companies, two of the most polluting fossil fuels. “Climate change is the most pressing moral issue in our world,” said the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, lead bishop on the environment.

The move comes nearly three years after the appointment of Justin Welby, a former senior executive at the now defunct Enterprise Oil company, as Archbishop of Canterbury.

“It’s about an alignment of interests,” Mr Mason said. “If you are a specialist coal mining company you don’t share the interest that we have in the transition to a low-carbon economy and the sense of it as a moral imperative. But if you are a BHP Billiton, where coal is a small part of your portfolio, we can have a constructive conversation with you about the future of coal for you as a company.”

The Church’s move makes it one of the most prominent recruits to a grassroots campaign that is spreading around the world and is modelled on the 1980s divestment movement to end apartheid in South Africa.

The Church, which has an investment portfolio worth more than £9bn, will no longer put its money into any company that gets more than 10 per cent of its revenues from extracting coal burnt for energy or oil from tar sands.