At its Diocesan Synod meeting yesterday, the Diocese of Southwark pledged to disinvest from any funds that invest in fossil fuels by the end of 2024. Additionally, it has committed not to invest in fossil fuel companies going forward.

Introducing the motion, Richard Taylor from Battersea Deanery, urged members of Synod to be attentive to ‘the signs of the times,’ remarking that “Between the fourth and the tenth of July we experienced the seven hottest days on earth in the past 100 years.”

Welcoming the decision, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, said: “We are in the midst of a climate crisis – and this requires each of us to do whatever we can to reduce our carbon emissions and care for God’s world. We are at the beginning of our journey to Carbon Net Zero, and there is a great deal more to be done, but this is a significant step forward for our Diocese.”

Southwark Diocese has committed to reaching Carbon Net Zero by 2035 and plans to set up a dedicated fund to support this work by the end of 2023.

Other matters discussed by the Synod meeting included the Diocesan financial forecasts and the further development of Southwark Vision – to be Christ-centred and outward-focused in our journey forward through to 2035.

In his Presidential Address to the Synod, Bishop Christopher urged those present to continue to seek unity. He said: “I stand here as your brother in Christ. Our lives are bound together as we witness to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I am committed to upholding your theological convictions in the belief that they are held in good faith. I ask and expect that we live and work as those who are bound together by a common baptism and a common profession of faith in the living God who has revealed himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We cannot witness effectively without each other. We are what God has made us, his by creation and redemption, none of us with the right or the prerogative to say to another sister or brother that we can do without them.”
The full text of Bishop Christopher’s Presidential Address can be found here.

The Synod also expressed its gratitude to Ruth Martin, Diocesan Secretary, who will retire from her role as Diocesan Secretary this summer.

Full synod motion as agreed:

Divestment from Fossil Fuels*
Reflecting our commitment to safeguarding the integrity of creation, this Synod asks that the Diocese:

1. divest by 31 December 2024 from those fossil fuel companies in which it holds direct investments, increase the proportion of investments in climate positive companies where doing so is judged likely to deliver positive returns;
2. divest from those investment funds that hold, or are likely to hold, on its behalf investments in fossil fuel companies and if so, divest from the same by 31 December 2024, the proportion of investments in climate-positive companies where doing so is judged likely to deliver positive returns;
3. refrain from investments in Fossil Fuel Companies going forward.
4. request the Diocesan Investment Committee to review the Diocesan Investment Policy in line with the National Investment Bodies’ future reports.

*Fossil Fuel Company means a company that engages in the exploration, refining, production, sale, or synthetic manufacturing of fossil fuels or fossil fuel by-products. This definition is intended to exclude companies that:

• merely utilise fossil fuels in their operations;
• manufacture products, like plastic, that are derived from fossil fuels;
• are engaged solely in the extraction of non-fuels minerals;
• are involved in production of nuclear energy.
Fossil Fuels mean any natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms, often described as hydrocarbons”.