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Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment invests in shareholder advocacy


MRTI committee chair says multi-level approach to fossil fuels is still best strategy

 By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Presbyterian News Service recently submitted questions to Joseph Kinard, chair of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) about the upcoming General Assembly in St. Louis and its continuous discussions with the fossil fuel industry.

With General Assembly a little more than a week away, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing MRTI?

It seems that at every General Assembly, the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment has to reintroduce itself: its history, how it operates, its composition, its accomplishments. It is also challenging to succinctly explain the committee’s guiding policies and directives from the General Assembly as well as the corporate engagement process. The committee hopes the video [see below] will help address some of these challenges and often-asked questions.

Some groups believe the time for talk has passed and that divestment should be the next step as it relates to the fossil fuel industry. How do you respond to that?

The Fossil Free movement calling for divestment has done and continues to do great work keeping the issue of climate change, especially as it affects the most vulnerable, front and center. To really achieve a just transition to a low-carbon economy will take a multi-pronged approach that includes grassroots efforts, shareholder advocacy, strengthened regulatory policies and changes in consumer behavior.

The fossil fuel issue is enormously complex, as fossil fuels power most of the world’s economic system.  

Converting global infrastructure to a low-carbon energy system, as outlined in the 2015 Paris Accords, is absolutely necessary – and even when achieved won’t be enough to limit global warming to the targeted 1.5-degree Celsius rise. We need changes in how we generate energy and in how we consume it. With the Trump administration pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accords, and regulatory rollbacks at the EPA, faith-based and values-driven shareholders are the last lines of defense pressing companies to make these imperative changes. It is faith-based investors like the PC(USA), through MRTI, who advocate on behalf of those most affected by climate change and other environmental abuses – bringing their voices into corporate boardrooms.

Will the PC(USA)’s continued engagement with oil and gas companies really produce significant change?

The PC(USA) through MRTI, is playing a major leadership role in a new initiative called Climate Action 100+. This is the largest investor coalition of ever assembled – 280 institutional investors with $30 trillion in assets – putting pressure on the 100 companies who are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases to transition their business plans and operations to a low-carbon demand scenario within the next five years. This is one-third of the world’s invested capital working together toward these goals! Many of these companies are already responding to the pressure, asking what they have to do to get off of the list. These companies, who have contributed disproportionately to the problem of climate change, also have the largest capacity to become a major part of the solution. MRTI’s Guideline Metrics tool, developed in response to a 222nd General Assembly (2016) recommendation, will potentially help us see faster than anyone else in which direction these companies are headed. Companies that move in the wrong direction will be subject to divestment recommendations.

Explain how corporate engagement works.

The process starts by reviewing General Assembly directives and policies and crafting a work plan based on those priorities. MRTI collaborates with ecumenical partners, researches target companies, corresponds with those companies, and often requests and holds dialogues with their leaders. If dialogues do not lead to any movement or provide answers to questions, the committee then moves on to filing shareholder resolutions, which are actions put in front of shareholders to vote on during an annual process. If a company shows little or no movement, MRTI looks toward additional measures, including possible divestment.

The new video below describes in more detail about MRTI’s corporate engagement work.


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