Northern College makes commitment to divest from fossil fuels

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Planet over profit sign credit Markus Spiske on UnsplashNorthern College, Lavington United Reformed Church (URC) in Bideford, and Redland Park URC in Bristol have committed to divesting from fossil fuels.

They join fifteen other churches and Christian institutions of various denominations in announcing their divestment commitment as part of the Epiphany Declaration for Fossil Free Churches.

The organisations are part of the growing ‘Fossil Free’ divestment movement, where faith institutions make up 29% of divesting organisations – the greatest proportion of divestment commitments globally. The global total of assets under management of divesting institutions has now reached over £9 trillion.

The Revd Dr Rosalind Selby, Principal of Northern College, said: “Over the last year, we have reviewed all ethical dimensions of our investment policy, and have made the decision to divest from fossil fuel companies. We believe it is not ethical to invest in these companies as they continue to invest huge sums in the exploration and extraction of new fossil fuel reserves, when the vast majority of reserves must remain in the ground in order to prevent climate catastrophe. We were delighted when Mission Council came to the same conclusion with regards to the URC investments at a national level.”

The announcement came on the day the Christian world celebrated the feast of Epiphany.

2020 is a vital year for climate action in the UK, especially with the 26th Conference of the Parties - a major United Nations climate change summit commonly referred to as COP26 - coming to Glasgow in November.

The Revd Rob Weston, Minister of Lavington URC in Bideford, added: “As part of our commitment to become an eco-church, we believe that divestment is an important step to take. This is one of many new initiatives that the church is undertaking this year, in order to reduce our carbon footprint.”

In May 2019, the URC Mission Council voted to divest from companies involved in the extraction or supply of oil and gas by the time of the URC’s General Assembly in 2020, following divestment from coal and tar sands in 2015. Mission Council also made the recommendation for a similar commitment to local churches and Synods.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager, commented: “It is wonderful news that so many Christian organisations have made the decision to divest from fossil fuels, including the first Catholic dioceses in the UK to divest. We hope many more churches will join them in taking this prophetic step out of concern for those most affected by the climate crisis – especially people living in the world’s poorest communities.”

Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis and works with all Christian denominations.

The institutions which made divestment commitments as part of the Epiphany Declaration are:

  • Diocese of Middlesbrough (Catholic)
  • Diocese of Lancaster (Catholic)
  • Congregation of Jesus, English Province (Catholic)
  • Presentation Sisters, English Province (Catholic)
  • United Reformed Church Synod of Wales
  • United Reformed Church South Western Synod
  • Lavington URC, Bideford (United Reformed Church)
  • Redland Park URC, Bristol (United Reformed Church)
  • Northern College (United Reformed Church/Congregational)
  • Ivybridge Methodist Church, Devon
  • Stirling Methodist Church, Stirling (Methodist Church in Scotland)
  • Devonport Baptist Church, Plymouth
  • St Luke’s Holloway, London (Church of England)
  • Pudsey Parish Church, Leeds (Church of England)
  • The churches of the Parish of Alston Moor: St Augustine of Canterbury, Alston; St John the Evangelist, Garrigill; St John the Evangelist, Nenthead; Holy Paraclete, Kirkhaugh; St Jude, Knaresdale; St Mary & St Patrick, Lambley (Church of England).

Brighthelm URC in Brighton became the first URC to divest from fossil fuel companies in 2014, and in 2015, the URC National Synod of Scotland became the first URC Synod to divest.

Along with joining Brighthelm and the National Synod of Scotland, Northern College, Lavington URC and Redland URC have now joined the URC’s National Synod of Wales, Yorkshire, Wessex and South Western synods, and Beulah URC in Cardiff, Bush Hill Park URC in Enfield, Tavistock URC in Devon, The Vines Church in Rochester, and Vine URC in Ilford, in divesting.


Picture: A protestor holding a placard reading "planet over profit". Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Published: 7 January 2020


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