British MP challenges Church Commissioners on climate change

By Gavin Drake
Posted May 5, 2016

[Anglican Communion News Service] A British parliamentarian has challenged the Church Commissioners’ stance on climate change and urged them to “read the Bible”. David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, told MPs that the parable of the oil lamps and 10 virgins in Matthew 25 supported the “cheap and ready supply of this much-maligned fossil fuel” – even though the oil in question was most likely olive oil.

Fellow-Conservative MP Caroline Spelman, the MP for Meriden in the English Midlands, is a Church Commissioner and has responsibility for answering questions from MPs every six weeks-or-so on the work of the Commissioners.

This morning, David Davies wanted to know the purpose behind the resolution co-filed by the Church Commissioners for debate during this month’s ExxonMobil AGM, which calls on the company to report on the impact of climate change policies on its portfolio and strategy.

Mrs Spelman said that the resolution was filed “so that ExxonMobil’s shareholders can indicate to the company their wish to see better corporate reporting on the long-term risks that the transition to a low-carbon economy presents to Exxon.

“This includes a scenario in which the implementation of the Paris agreement restricts warming to below two degrees Celsius.”

In a supplementary question, Mr Davies said: “Before they are too critical of the oil companies, may I suggest that the Church of England Commissioners read the Bible – Matthew 25, the parable of the oil lamps and the 10 virgins – and remember that it was the five virgins who lived happily ever after and who had a cheap and ready supply of this much-maligned fossil fuel?”

The parable does not specify what type of oil lamps were used, but the most common oil lamps in use during biblical times in the Middle East were olive oil lamps – and olive oil is not a fossil fuel.

Mrs Spelman replied that the two MPs “perhaps do not share the same interpretation of the Bible”. when it comes to belief in climate change as a phenomenon.”

She told MPs that the Commissioners have been “commended with a number of prizes for their . . . ethical investment strategy, which includes taking account of the risk that climate change does pose to investments.”