Friday, June 20, 2014

Presbyterians Dodge a Bullet on Fossil Fuel Divestment

This week I am blogging from the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly

An overture came to the GA to divest from 'fossil fuel' companies now. It seems to me this is a bad idea.

The PC(USA) is blessed with a well-developed Mission Responsibility Through Investment process, which is designed to thoughtfully engage with companies when they do bad things. One of the really good things that MRTI does for the church is to really research what, exactly, are the bad things, and have a dialogue with the company about separating the bad from the good.  As a last resort, the MRTI recommends that the church divest from intransigent companies.

The overture proposed to prematurely divest from fossil fuel companies now.  The committee was closely divided, but in the end voted to refer the issue to MRTI.  A minority report was moved to make the church's stock-holding bodies divest within five years.  The Young Adult Advisory Delegates were for it.  The elders, however, voted it down, 70% to 30%.

The GA then considered the committee's main motion, to refer the issue to the MRTI.  This passed, 81% to 19%.

The proposers of the 'divest now' side flatly claimed that "we only have six years" to reduce fossil fuel use and carbon waste.  I believe global warming is real, and that human action has contributed, but I am skeptical of the claim that if we don't act right now we are doomed.

The other error the 'divest now' side made, especially among the YAADs, is the belief that divesting our miniscule holdings in energy companies will somehow help end global warming - rather than just sell those energy company stocks to someone else, who will likely not push the companies to develop alternative fuels.

1 comment:

Nate Crimmins said...

I'm skeptical of the MRTI's ability to move oil companies towards alternative energy sources with the needed speed. This skepticism, I think, is rooted more in a pessimistic view of said companies than the MRTI process. That said, I hope you'll keep us posted on the progress of such dialogue between the two parties.