(August 11, 2015) – Today, the United Church of Canada voted to sell its fossil fuel assets and commit financially to transitioning to an economy based on renewable energy.
The vote was held by the 42nd General Council, the United Church’s highest body, which meets triennially to determine the denomination’s priorities.
Climate justice, whereby the world’s most vulnerable populations avoid disproportionate harms of climate chaos, stands as a clear priority for Canada’s largest protestant denomination.
“The United Church of Canada has voiced its concern about human-induced climate catastrophe for decades. Given the lack of political and industrial leadership to address climate concerns in a way that matches the scale of the problem, we wanted to signal that we are so serious about averting climate crisis that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is,” said Christine Boyle, the General Council commissioner, parent, and long-time climate advocate.
“Many in the United Church see Jesus as a friend of the poor and an advocate for the marginalized. Today we have committed to journeying in his footsteps, raising our moral voices to address the burdens of climate chaos that disproportionately affects those living on the margins.”
The denomination has addressed the climate crisis several times at previous General Councils.
This is the first time it has committed to moving its investments away from fossil fuels the same way it moved away from tobacco and gambling companies years ago.
“The United Church of Canada has lived into the policies that it has developed over the past 20 on climate justice, and is taking prophetic leadership,” said Jeanne Moffat, a leader with Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church’s climate justice group.
“We should see this as a symbol of hope for the climate justice movement.” Folks from across Canada have worked on this for years, finding inspiration from a similar initiative to end apartheid in South Africa and from what the World Council of Churches and other faith communities across the globe are doing to transition to a sustainable future.”
The motion for the General Council to divest follows motions at Conferences across the country.
At its conference in May, oil-rich Alberta voted to articulate a vision of Canada without fossil fuels.
Both Toronto Conference and Manitou Conference also sent divestment proposals to General Council.
During the debate on the issue, commissioners voiced concern for people in Alberta, Saskatchewan and elsewhere who will need support to transition away from economies that are presently so dependent on fossil fuels.
The General Council Executive will now chart the path for the Treasury to sell its holdings of the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies, and to take active steps to re-invest those assets in green renewable energy co-operatives. Currently these holdings constitute $5.9 million, or 4.7% of the United Church of Canada Treasury.