Church of England backs climate-friendly stock index that excludes BP and Exxon Mobil

Posted January 30, 2020 7:06 a.m. EST

— The Church of England is investing £600 million ($780 million) in a new stock market index packed with companies that are aligned with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

The index, which launched Thursday on the London Stock Exchange, was designed by the Church of England Pensions Board, exchange operator FTSE Russell and climate investor group Transition Pathway Initiative. It is open only to institutional investors.

The investment vehicle rewards companies that are tackling climate change, while excluding or diminishing the weighting of environmental laggards. Shell is included, for example, while Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP are not.

The church pension board, which has £2.8 billion ($3.6 billion) under management, said it is allocating all its passive funds to the index, and in so doing cutting the carbon intensity of those investments in half.

The move by the pension board, which manages the pensions of retired clergy and other church workers, follows similar commitments by some of the world's biggest pension funds and asset managers, including BlackRock.

"The message is clear to all publicly listed companies: put in place targets and strategies aligned to Paris and be rewarded with inclusion in the index, or work against the long-term interests of beneficiaries and wider society, and be excluded," Adam Matthews, the pension board's director of ethics and engagement, said in a statement.

To make the cut, the excluded oil companies must set targets for all of their emissions that align with the Paris agreement, the pension board said. Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Church of England has been among the most aggressive investors in using its financial power to pressure companies to combat climate change. It said the new investment vehicle, which is called the FTSE TPI Climate Transition Index, is the first to use data to track whether companies are aligned with the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

"We all have both a moral and financial responsibility to address the climate emergency and to use those tools available to us to support the goals of the Paris climate agreement," Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, BlackRock, the massive asset manager in charge of $7 trillion, announced it would ditch investments that it considers a sustainability risk, including thermal coal producers. It said it will now put sustainability at the center of its approach to investing.

Mark Carney, the outgoing head of the Bank of England, has warned that the financial sector is not moving quickly enough to curb climate risks.

Investors can do more than simply divest from companies that are not doing their part to combat climate change, said Clive Mather, chair of the Church of England Pensions Board. Instead, they should develop an approach that encourages companies to change by including "real world consequences for those that do not do so," Mather said.

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