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Climate Change

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 10th September 2015.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 9:30 am, 10th September 2015

What steps the Church Commissioners are taking to support the Church of England’s international efforts to tackle climate change.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church of England, along with the wider Anglican Communion, is actively tacking climate change in four ways: assessing its investment strategy and, where necessary, divesting in the context of our climate change policy; actively engaging with public policy; attending the forthcoming Paris conference; and encouraging its parishes to reduce their carbon footprint and their parishioners to do the same.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I thank the right hon. Lady for that response. As she mentions, the Church has made some progress and is divesting £12 million from highly polluting coal and tar sands investment, but there is still quite a significant degree of investment in companies such as Shell, in respect of which there are still concerns about involvement in fossil fuels and the exploration of the Arctic, for example. Does the right hon. Lady feel that the Church could go further?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I would encourage the hon. Lady to come to a reception with the Church Commissioners that I have organised for Members to discuss the ethical investment strategy that now applies to Church investment. She is right that divestment of investment in thermal coal and tar sands has occurred, and there are no direct investments in any company of which more than 10% of its revenues are derived from the extraction of thermal coal or from tar sands.

Photo of David Nuttall David Nuttall Conservative, Bury North

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Church should be spending its time looking at ways to increase the size of church congregations rather than trying to control the world’s climate?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Our commitment to climate change in no way detracts from the central mission of the Church, which is to encourage people to faith. As part of our faith, however, we have to demonstrate environmental stewardship. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, the Anglican Communion has an unrivalled network through which to encourage laggards in the quest to tackle climate change and to play a positive role at the conference in Paris.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

My right hon. Friend rightly refers to the Anglican Communion. What discussions and consultations does the Church of England have with the worldwide Anglican Communion to listen to them about the impact of climate change in their own countries?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church of England devoted a whole day of its General Synod in York to a debate on climate change, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury and I spoke, outlining the ability of our worldwide network to help the nations that are worst affected by climate change. Sadly, they are the poorest nations in the world. That is why the Government’s commitment to an ambitious outcome in Paris is so important.