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Southern African Anglicans seek fossil fuel-free investment portfolios

Posted on: September 30, 2016 12:51 PM
The Exxaro-owned Matimba coal-fired power station at Lephalale, Limpopo, South Africa.
Photo Credit: JMK / Wikimedia

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) has agreed in principle to divest from fossil fuels. But they face a problem with putting this into practice because there are currently no fossil fuel-free portfolios available in South Africa’s financial markets. The motion approved by the Synod empowers ACSA to negotiate with financial institutions to create investment portfolios that exclude fossil fuels. If successful, the church could pave the way for a new ethical investment sector in the country.

In the Paris Climate Change agreement, agreed last year, world leaders said that would seek to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius to prevent “catastrophic climate change.” The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, including in Mozambique – part of the Province of Southern Africa – where up to 100,000 people may have to be relocated from the country’s second city, Beira, to protect them from rising sea levels. Other countries in the province are suffering from drought.

There are also financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels. Environmentalists say that global targets can only be met if no more than 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide is released from fossil fuels in the future; but the total known reserves of fossil fuels amount to 2,860 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. This disparity is known as the carbon bubble – the value of fossil fuels is likely to fall as we get closer to the limit of what can be used. The Bank of England has warned of significant financial risks from fossil fuel investments.

The motion passed by the provincial synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa warns that “God’s creation is under threat” and says that “human-induced climate change is now widely regarded as the most pressing issue of our time. Extended droughts are a direct consequence of global warming, with extreme weather events occurring more often.”