Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Anglicans' oil vote causes ripples

Auckland's Anglicans say they want to sell out of all fossil fuel investments within two years. Photo / Thinkstock
Auckland's Anglicans say they want to sell out of all fossil fuel investments within two years. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand's Catholic Church says it will "reflect" on a decision by Auckland Anglicans to sell out of all fossil fuel investments within two years.

An ethical investment adviser says the Anglican decision, passed by an Auckland Synod at the weekend, will also increase pressure on KiwiSaver funds and on major state investment funds such as the NZ Super Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

Dr Rodger Spiller, an Auckland-based director of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia, said he was not aware of any other significant NZ investor that had sold out of fossil fuel investments on principle, but there was "a strong possibility" that others would follow the Anglican lead.

A spokeswoman for Catholic bishops said Catholic Archbishop John Dew had already had an initial meeting with staff on the issue.

"They plan to ... undertake the [necessary] consultation before the conversation on this goes any further," she said.

Dr Spiller said several KiwiSaver funds, such as Fidelity Life's Ethical Kiwi Fund, already offered options to avoid "sin stocks" such as tobacco, alcohol, gambling and armaments, and there was now a global campaign to include fossil fuels in the list.

"KiwiSaver funds all have to have a policy on responsible investment. They have to disclose that," he said.

The NZ Super Fund already has a responsible investment policy which excludes more than 150 companies, including tobacco and cluster munitions, but a World Wildlife Fund report last month found the fund still had 7.67 per cent of its direct equity investments in oil, gas, coal and related services.

Super Fund chief executive Adrian Orr said yesterday that the fund's guardians were not considering selling those shares, but had done "substantial work" to understand the investment risks connected with climate change.

Auckland Anglican Assistant Bishop Jim White said the diocese had employed someone to help congregations reduce their "carbon footprint" and it would have been inconsistent to keep investments in companies that increased carbon emissions.

"For Christians, Jesus explicitly says where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," he said.

He said that, to the best of its knowledge, the church did not actually have any shares in NZ fossil fuel companies, but it needed to find out whether it held indirect investments through global fund management companies.

The synod voted to "ensure that no diocesan funds are invested in corporations whose main business is the extraction and/or production of fossil fuels, and that existing holdings in such corporations are divested within two years".

- NZ Herald

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