ALBERTA

Church Of England Divests Oilsands, Coal Investments

05/01/2015 02:27 EDT | Updated 05/01/2015 02:59 EDT
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Oilsands companies shouldn't expect a blessing from the Church of England.

Concerns over climate change have prompted the church to divest itself of approximately $22 million (£12 million) in oilsands and thermal coal investments, it said in a Thursday news release.

It will also no longer invest in companies that obtain more than 10 per cent of their revenue from these industries.

"Climate change is the most pressing moral issue in our world," Church of England Bishop Nick Holtam said.

The move comes as the church adopts a policy that directs how its three national investing bodies can help to foster a low carbon economy.

"The church has a responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world's poor who are most vulnerable to climate change," said Rev. Canon Professor Richard Burridge.

The Church of England's investment portfolio is worth over $16 billion (£9 billion), according to The Financial Times.

While divesting itself of investments in oilsands and coal companies, it could still hold on to shares in businesses like BHP Billiton, a multinational mining corporation, one church official told the newspaper.

"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," said Edward Mason, who oversees the church's responsible investment.

"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 decision arrives three years after the appointment of ex-Enterprise Oil executive Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, the institution's highest position, Mining.com pointed out.

It also comes amid a global movement putting pressure on investors to divest themselves from fossil fuels.

As many as 200 institutions around the world have committed to reducing their investments in such industries, Bloomberg reported.

They include Stanford University, Glasgow University and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Prince Charles, an environmentalist, has also ensured that his own investments don't include a stake in fossil fuel companies.

The church's decision marks yet another setback for companies operating out of Alberta's oilsands, which are currently reeling from the falling price of oil.

Reuters reported Thursday that Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., which is Syncrude's largest shareholder, experienced a net loss of $186 million in the first quarter, compared to a $172 million profit posted last year.

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