GA226 Medallion

The 226th General Assembly will be asked to decide whether to place the entire fossil fuel industry on a list of excluded investments or to continue with a more selective process that’s currently used by the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Committee on Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI).

The Environmental and Climate Justice Committee also will be taking up a handful of other business later this month in online meetings leading up to plenaries in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Susquehanna Valley Presbytery is sponsoring ENV-02: “On Removal of Investments in and Subsidies for Fossil Fuels.” It seeks for “all publicly traded companies whose primary source of income is derived from the exploration, development, and production of fossil fuels” to be put on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s list of prohibited securities.

The sponsor cites the urgency of the climate crisis and the church’s obligation to protect God’s Creation, including the planet and its people.

“The world has to change the path it is on, but it requires two huge changes,” ENV-02 states. “The most critical change is a ‘fast, full and fair’ phase out of fossil fuel production and usage. The second is the rapid expansion of sources of renewable energy. The church’s investments have power and influence which can contribute to these changes and bear witness to the world that we acknowledge the climate crisis, the suffering it is causing and its link to the burning of fossil fuels.”

ENV-02 calls on the General Assembly to “strongly encourage all congregations, presbyteries, synods, the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation, as well as Church-related educational institutions and individual church members, to align their investment decisions with this declaration with all due speed and diligence.” It also asks for “all PC(USA) members and institutional investors to seek out investments in clean renewable energy companies.”

The overture has support from 13 presbyteries. There also are several opposing responses backing how the denomination currently operates, and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) notes that the denomination doesn’t currently have social witness policy to support the declaration that fossil fuel production and use are contrary to the values of the PC(USA). “Should this General Assembly or any future General Assembly wish to pursue the creation of such policy, we would urge them to go through established processes, including asking ACSWP to study the topic and recommend policy for approval by a future General Assembly.”

The PMA has commented that in bypassing the established divestment and social witness policy process, ENV-02 will not be implementable by the denomination’s investing agencies.

In contrast to ENV-02 is ENV-06, which is MRTI’s response to the last General Assembly’s directive on applying environmental policy and continuing corporate engagement.

During the 225th General Assembly, MRTI recommended divestment from five fossil fuel companies — Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Valero Energy — and the General Assembly approved placing them on the Divestment/Proscription list. This year, MRTI isn’t recommending that any companies be added to the list, since there are none currently in the red range of its guideline metrics. Companies land in that range because of things like having a poor record of shareholder engagement and having a poor record on environmental, social and governance issues.

Through ENV-06, MRTI is recommending continued engagement with particular companies in the Climate Action 100+. It would then report back to the 227th General Assembly (2026) with possible divestment recommendations.

MRTI also is seeking to add two entities, Ameren and the fossil fuel company EOG Resources, to MRTI’s list for focused engagement (letters, dialogue, etc.).

In other business, the environmental committee will take up ENV-01, a proposal by the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery, for the General Assembly to adopt a Sustainable Peace Pledge. If approved, PC(USA) agencies and related organizations would come together to develop a “comprehensive, coordinated, global, and long-term strategy” to help mitigate climate change.

ENV-03, an overture from the Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley, calls on the General Assembly to “encourage all our settings to commit to changing from a disposable culture to a reusable, sustainable one” and there’d be education on alternatives to single-use plastics.

The environmental committee also will consider ENV-04, a lithium mining paper from ACSWP that seeks, among other things, to protect Indigenous and vulnerable communities as society moves toward a greener economy.

ENV-02:8m is ACSWP’s response to a request by the 225th General Assembly that it study and report back on the life-cycle stewardship of alternative energy products created to enable a greener environment.

The 226th General Assembly runs from June 25 to July 4. The Environmental and Climate Justice Committee meets online June 25-27.