GA225 Medallion

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Environmental Justice Committee will consider several approaches to protecting the planet, including selectively divesting from fossil fuels and reducing the church’s carbon footprint, during the 225th General Assembly later this month.

One of the most publicized items is ENV-10, a request by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board that the General Assembly approve the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment’s recommendation to divest from five fossil fuel companies to help address urgent and long-term threats posed by climate change.

The selective divestment proposal from the PMA Board and MRTI is one of nearly a dozen items coming before the committee, which meets June 23-25. If it’s approved, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Valero Energy would be placed on the General Assembly’s Divestment/Proscription List.

“This recommendation follows GA-established policy, MRTI’s regular corporate engagement processes, and if adopted by the 225th General Assembly, can be implemented by the investing agencies (Board of Pensions and Presbyterian Foundation) related to the General Assembly,” according to the rationale.

Presbyteries from around the country also are recommending steps to address climate change.

An overture from Hudson River Presbytery (ENV-07) calls on the PC(USA), the Presbyterian Foundation, the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program Inc., to divest from the fossil fuel industry, using the Carbon Underground 200 and the S&P Global Industry Classification Standard’s list of publicly traded companies engaged in coal, oil and gas exploration, extraction and production as the criteria to identify which companies are considered to be fossil fuel companies. It also calls for stopping any new investments in fossil fuel industry securities.

Fossil Free PCUSA and MRTI, which in the past have disagreed, say ENV-07 could pass alongside the PMA/MRTI recommendation for selective divestment. (Background here.)

Here are some of the other items being considered by the committee:

Arkansas Presbytery’s overture (ENV-01) seeks for all congregations and presbyteries to be encouraged to learn about and start the process of divestment from fossil fuels, using the Carbon Underground 200 and the S&P Global Industry Classification Standard’s list of publicly traded companies engaged in coal, oil and gas exploration, extraction and production. It also is overturing the GA to direct MRTI to add those companies to the divestment list and recommend divestment to the Board of Pensions.  

The Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky has an overture, ENV-08, which directs that “all financial investments of the PC(USA) be withdrawn from industries that contribute to the production of the two major greenhouse gasses (CO2 and methane).” It also directs the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation to increase investment in sources of low-carbon renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage in ways that help fossil fuel industry workers obtain greener jobs.

Seattle Presbytery has an overture, ENV-09, which calls for taking certain actions in support of making an energy transition. Although it is supportive of MRTI’s recommendation, it also recommends the PMA talk with presbyteries whose members work in the fossil fuel industry and try to discern ways that the PC(USA) can be supportive as society moves away from fossil fuels.

An overture from the Presbytery of Scioto Valley, ENV-04, calls for the PMA to develop and implement a carbon offset program for carbon emissions from work-related air travel by PMA personnel. The PMA would establish a “Presbyterian Tree Fund,” in collaboration with multiple offices, to hold carbon offset donations that are received, and grants would be issued for tree-planting and other climate-friendly projects.

Heartland Presbytery’s overture, ENV-11, calls for the church to support and advocate “for the implementation of science-based goals that simultaneously protect the diversity of Creation and mitigate climate change while honoring and engaging Indigenous wisdom and leadership for stewardship of lands and waters.”

In ENV-02, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) recommends that the General Assembly approve “Investing in a Green Future: a Vision for a Renewed Creation,” a study that provides a discussion on the intersections of environmental justice, environmental racism and economic justice.

For more information about these and other items that will be considered by the committee, go here.