Should banks ditch
fossil fuel investments?

Howard Curnow

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This exchange appeared in the Methodist Recorder, 10 Nov 17 and afterwards, and is republished here by permission. There are minor edits for clarity where necessary.

The main part of the page is an interesting letter from the Rev Howard Kernow, in response to a statement by Rowan Williams, reported in the Methodist Recorder, 10 Nov 2017.

I'll summarise Rowan's contribution first:

The former Archbishop of Canterbury has questioned the morality of British banks profiteering from projects which cause climate change and said that they should shift their investments away from fossil fuels.

Rowan Williams said that this year we have seen more extreme weather in South Asia which has caused death and destruction. He blamed fossil fuel activity, which caused chaotic climate events.

Banks, he said, should shift investments away from those based on fossil fuels and to shift towards "climate solutions".

The British public, in recent polls, has said that it is wrong for banks to profit from investments which cause pollution.

A ComRes poll found that:

  • 78% agreed that investing in companies causing dangerous climate change is morally wrong
  • 81% said that bank chief executives should take responsibility for ensuring their banks' investments are not causing environmental damage.
  • 85% think it is morally wrong to invest in projects which will harm children's futures.

    Howard replied as follows (MR, 1 Dec 2017)

    May I make three observations concerning the report "Rowan Williams calls on banks to stop profiting from climate change" (MR, Nov 10).

    First, if the three bullet points concerning the ComRes survey are indicative of the questions asked, I am not surprised that the results are so high - in fact, I'm surprised they are not higher. After all, who would think it morally right to profit from something that will cause harm to children's futures?

    To evaluate the significance of a survey, one needs to know precisely what questions were asked. Some readers may recall how, in "Yes, Minister", Sir Humphrey demonstrated to Bernard how a different set of questions on a topic could lead to opposite results.

    Second, it is hardly surprising that "the world is still investing over three times more in fossil fuels than in renewables", since fossil fuels, unlike wind and solar generation, can provide a steady supply of electricity. When it is boasted that on a certain day renewables supplied, say, 50 per cent of our country's energy, no mention is made of the fact that gas and coal are still being consumed so that a supply will still be there when night falls or the wind drops. Likewise, a statement that a wind farm produces sufficient energy to supply 10,000 homes really needs the qualifying clause "some of the time".

    Third, it is undeniable that some of the poorest people have suffered from extreme weather conditions. This is, however, not something that has only happened in recent years and there is little actual evidence that such events are becoming more common. That being the case, it is not self-evident that it is all down to climate change or that carbon dioxide is the driver of climate.



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