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Church in fossil fuels exodus

The Church of England is to sell £12 million of its shares in fossil fuel companies.

The Church, announcing a new climate change policy, also said it will no longer make any direct investments in companies that generate more than 10% of their revenue from extracting thermal coal or producing oil from tar sands.

Welcoming the new policy Bishop Nick Holtam, the lead Bishop on the environment at the Church of England, said climate change is "the most pressing moral issue in our world".

The new policy will see more engagement between the church's national investment bodies and the companies in which it holds shares, including fossil fuel producers.

Pierre Jameson, chief investment officer of the Church of England pensions board said: "We want a global policy framework that incentivises a reduction in carbon emissions and the transition to a low carbon economy.

"We need governments meeting in Paris at the end of this year to agree long term global emissions targets with a clear pathway to a low carbon future."

Tom Joy, director of investments at the Church Commissioners, said the church wants to be "at the forefront of institutional investors seeking to address the challenge of energy transition".

The commissioners are the largest private owner of UK forestry, with 4% of their portfolio invested in sustainable forestry.

Mr Joy added: "T his new policy rightly goes beyond to incorporate investment exclusions for companies focused on the highest carbon fossil fuels where we do not think engagement would be productive."

The Rev Canon Professor Richard Burridge, deputy chairman of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said the church has a moral responsibility to take action on environmental issues and work for justice for the poor "who are most vulnerable to climate change".

He said: "This responsibility encompasses not only the Church's own work to reduce our own carbon footprint, but also how the Church's money is invested and how we engage with companies on this vital issue."

The Church Commissioners hold investments which were valued at almost £5.5 billion at the end of 2012. The fund includes stock market and property investments, including urban property, rural and development land and a stake in global property funds.

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