Protests as Church Commissioners Pursue Policy of Engagement at Exxxon Mobil AGM

TWO priests glued to furniture at Church House, Westminster last Wednesday to protest the Church’s continued investment in fossil fuel producer Exxon Mobil.

“They are succeeding in reducing their energy consumption, Sergeant – they cannot move”

The couple, Reverend Susan Parfitt and Reverend Tim Hewes, are both members of Christian Climate Action. Ms Parfitt, 79, who was already out on bail for a similar protest outside the City of London Magistrates’ Court in March (News, March 26), was arrested on charges of breaching her bail, then surrendered out on bail. Mr Hewes, who was jailed for 14 days for his role in the previous action, was not arrested this time.

During last week’s action, Ms Parfitt, who retired in 2001 after holding senior administrative positions in the Dioceses of Bristol and Southwark, and has permission to officiate in the Diocese of Bristol, delivered a letter to Church commissioners asking them to divest from Exxon Mobil.

In the letter, Christian Climate Action says he expects Church commissioners to understand that the General Synod’s decision last year to set a net zero carbon emissions target by 2030 “Expressed the will of the Church and that this should be reflected in decisions made by the Commissioners of the Church.”

He also says he doesn’t think Exxon takes seriously its responsibilities to help transition to a low-carbon economy. He “systematically blocked shareholder resolutions calling for climate action while planning major new investments in oil and gas exploration and extraction. Exxon’s behavior does not show the slightest degree of serious engagement with the truth of the situation we are facing. “

Christian Climate ActionThe Reverend Tim Hawes, at the vigil outside Church House, Westminster

On the same day as the protest, vigils were held in the cathedrals of Chester, Salisbury, Liverpool and Bristol. Participants prayed that the Church would “Exit Exxon” and immediately divest from all fossil fuels.

Mr Hewes, 70, a retired dentist and unpaid former minister, is licensed to serve in the Diocese of Oxford. The Church’s holdings in fossil fuels were, he said, “akin to the Church’s investments in previous centuries in sugar and the slave trade. To believe that sustaining investments provides the Church with leverage for the greater good is nonsense, and simply provides these companies with a fig leaf to cover their continuing acts of ecocide.

“It is the Church’s duty to invest ethically, and by supporting these endeavors, she is denying this fundamental principle. “

Christian Climate ActionThe vigil outside Church House, Westminster

Church commissioners believe, however, that change can be made from within. At the time of the protest, representatives of the commissioners were attending Exxon Mobil’s online AGM, during which the dissident shareholder group Engine No. 1 succeeded in replacing two board members with their own. candidates.

Commissioners Chief Responsible Investment Officer Bess Joffe said on Tuesday: “We supported the entire roster proposed by the No.1 Engine at Exxon’s AGM because it is clear to us that the current board of directors is not taking the company’s transition plan. or the renewable energy strategy seriously.

“We hope that the current directors will work with the new non-executive directors and benefit from their significant experience in transition plans and renewable energy. We will continue to engage urgently with the company to understand the pace and scale of the strategic change we can expect in the face of the significant expression of investor dissatisfaction that this campaign represents.

“If the company fails to demonstrate sufficient progress in its transition strategy, Church commissioners would expect to withdraw from Exxon, in line with its commitment to Synod. “

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