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Entire Unitarian Church Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Church plans to maintain a few shares to engage in shareholder activism for climate movement

Divestment movement leader Bill McKibben takes a "selfie" outside of the Unitarian First Parish Church in Cambridge. (Photo: Unitarian Universalist Climate Action Network)

Marking a major victory for the climate movement, the assembly of the Unitarian Universalists, representing over 1,000 congregations, voted on Saturday to divest their $175 million endowment from fossil fuel companies.

According to a church spokesperson, the 2,000 delegates in attendance at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) meeting in Providence, RI, voted "overwhelmingly" to support a Fossil Fuel Divestment Business Resolution.

“We, private citizens and the private and nonprofit sectors, need to take matters into our own hands, and use every strategy we can to convince the government and public at large of our planetary emergency, and that we must act now," said Terry Wiggins, who helped lead the divestment effort.

“This is one tactic in an overall strategy in working against overdependence on fossil fuels,” Ed Horch, who took part in the vote, told the Providence Journal. “It’s not going to cause ExxonMobil to go broke, but that’s not what it’s intended to do.”

According to information provided to the Journal, roughly 2.9 percent of the UUA’s $175-million endowment is invested in Carbon Tracker 200 companies.

Voicing his enthusiasm over the news, Bill McKibben, whose organization has led the divestment campaign, wrote on Twitter:

The Resolution requires that the church reach full divestment of directly held securities and indirect holdings for companies that produce and process fossil fuels within five years, with the exception of maintaining "a few shares" to allow the church to engage in shareholder advocacy.

According to a statement by the UUA, the church has a history of "longstanding success" with shareholder activism on a number of issues, including environmental justice.

"We believe strongly that any effort that can change the current trajectory of climate change is a welcome improvement,” said David Stewart, co-chair of the UUA’s Socially Responsible Investing Committee.

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