Some members of Grandparents for a Safe Earth joined other faith- and non-faith-based protest groups in a demonstration outside the ExxonMobil oil refinery at Fawley, near Southampton on 1st June. Although the focus of the protest was mainly on the Church of England’s continued investments in ExxonMobil with its policy of large-scale fossil-fuel extraction, GfaSE members were also very aware of investments in ExxonMobil by other organizations, and not least some of their own pension providers (including some County Councils). They will be continuing to raise their concerns with these pension providers. Below is a press release from Christian Climate Action, one of the groups which took part in the protest. Their account includes a statement by a GfaSE member and a photograph of the GfaSE banner.
To view a short GFASE video of the action, click on https://youtu.be/7WUE1ydJVtU
To see the film from BBC South News, click on this link
BBC SOUTH HAVE KINDLY AGREED TO ACCESS THEIR FILM OF THIS ON YOUTUBE
Film and Press Release: Divest Exxon Day
BBC South Today filmed the whole day and they have kindly let us have their film.
PRESS RELEASE 1st JUNE
FIRST EVER CLIMATE CHANGE DEMO OUTSIDE EXXONMOBIL FAWLEY REFINERY CALLS ON CHURCH TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS
Yesterday, the day of ExxonMobil’s AGM, a coalition of faith and non-faith groups staged events to call for the Church of England to divest from the company.
Early in the morning, demonstrators gathered outside Fawley refinery, handing leaflets to staff as they entered. Then at 4pm, faith and non-faith groups held a vigil outside Salisbury Cathedral before delivering a letter into the office of the Bishop of Salisbury, the lead bishop for Environmental Affairs in the Church of England, requesting that the Church divests from ExxonMobil.
Hours before the passing of a resolution on climate change at ExxonMobil’s AGM in Houston – put forward by a group of institutional investors, including the Church of England – campaigners called on the Church to sell its shares in the company whatever the outcome of the vote.
Time to Cycle lead a bike ride through the New Forest between the two locations.
Ruth Jarman, a member of the Church of England said, ‘When the Church should be showing moral leadership to protect the millions of lives devastated every year by climate change, they’re being taken for a ride by the very company causing the problem. By continuing to hope that ExxonMobil is going to change its stripes, the Church of England is buying cover for one of the most notorious companies blocking action on climate change, including funding climate denying politicians and fake science.
‘The Church of England needs to wake up, follow the example of hundreds of other faith leaders around the world and cut its ties with these companies. The church should be filling the moral void created by these companies, not falling into it.’
Sigurd Reimers, of Grandparents for a Safe Earth, said, ‘Shareholder engagement is often an excellent way to make a company more ethical. But it takes time. And we don’t have time. This resolution is a ‘step zero’ in the task of fixing ExxonMobil. It is simply asking ExxonMobil to disclose the effect of climate change on its business when we should be asking the exact opposite – for it to disclose the effect of its business on climate change. And to act on that information.’
Alison Craig, of the Salisbury Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, said, ‘The passing of the resolution at the AGM is a dangerous distraction. It merely asks the company to disclose financial figures that have nothing whatsoever to do with cleaning-up their business. In the meantime, the Church will continue to make money out of causing climate change. This is wrong. The Church of England needs to get out of oil and gas, starting with ExxonMobil.’
Notes to editors
- Fawley is the only ExxonMobil refinery in the UK, and is the largest and most complex in Europe.
- The flyer that was handed to staff explaining the unethical behaviour of ExxonMobil is here.
- The AGM resolution by a group of investors, including the Church of England, called for ExxonMobil to disclose the extent to which global action to tackle climate change will negatively impact the company’s future earnings. The Resolution was passed by 62.3% of the vote despite strong opposition from the ExxonMobil Board.
- The strategy of ‘engagement’ by the Church with fossil fuel companies does not go far enough for divestment campaigners. For example a letter to the Church Times by 3 bishops and 27 other clergy on 5/5/17 called for the church pensions board to divest from fossil fuels.
- In 2015 the Church moved to divest £12m from tar sands oil and thermal coal from its £9bn fund but has resisted calls for all out fossil fuel divestment. Church Commissioners have declined to disclose the sum invested in ExxonMobil, thought to be millions: their Annual Report (page 78) discloses the identity of their top 20 holdings only.
- On 15th May 2017 The Guardian reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, may have played a crucial role in the decision by the investment company BMO Global Asset Management, to dump £20m of shares in firms such as BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining giant, because of climate change. The Archbishop is President of BMO’s responsible investment committee.
- More information on the Divest ExxonMobil Day can be found at https://christianclimateaction.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/divest-ExxonMobil-day-join-us/
- The campaigners’ coalition includes 350.org, Christian Climate Action, Fossil Free UK, Grandparents for a Safe Earth, Salisbury Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, Salisbury Greenpeace, Time to Cycle.
- There is a petition to register support for the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels here.
10.The fossil fuel divestment movement saw its beginnings in North America, Europe and Australia and has since become the fastest growing divestment movement in history. Global commitments to divest have already reached 710 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over US$5.5 trillion in assets under management.
And Exxon very kindly put up a fence for our banner: