Presbyterian leader part of interfaith effort to combat climate change

Director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement helps launch lobbying and advocacy effort

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leadership is part of a new initiative by the  Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) designed to encourage businesses to push for strong pro-climate policies at the state and federal level.

The campaign is to enlist businesses in proactive lobbying and policy advocacy supporting science-based climate policy to rein in climate change.

“In recognition of the enormous power and influence of the business community on environmental legislation and regulation, investors say they are petitioning portfolio companies to align their lobbying activities with the goal of limiting average global warming to well below 2-degrees Celsius, consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement,” an ICCR news release says.

“While ICCR members have long called for disclosures of corporate lobbying activities, this initiative goes much further by pressing corporations to proactively lobby in favor of policies protective of Earth’s climate. The initiative is part of a broader effort by both European and U.S. investors to make lobbying a central theme in corporate engagements to address climate change.”

Part of the team that formulated the campaign is Rob Fohr, director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement and lead staff person to the PC(USA)’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI).

“This campaign focusing on lobbying, both direct and indirect through trade associations, really helps MRTI engage with companies on the public policy component of the criteria related to climate change that was established by the 222nd General Assembly (2016),” Fohr said in a statement. “In recent years, MRTI has primarily focused on pressing companies to set greenhouse gas reduction targets or increase disclosure on their strategy for transitioning to low-carbon demand scenarios.”

The ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis combined with an increase in challenges at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding resolutions asking companies to set greenhouse gas reduction targets has made this campaign vital. Focusing on public policy through political activity and lobbying spending among companies is an important component of pressing companies to manage operations with an eye toward achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Faith-Based Investing Office said.

MRTI has engaged on the subject of indirect lobbying through trade associations for many years on a range of issues. This campaign goes one step further by making a clear ask to companies to disclose to investors where the companies’ stated goals on climate differ from the positions of their trade associations.

The initiative’s two-pronged approach is:

  1. Encourage companies to advance public policies consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement (net-zero emissions by 2050) by increasing the amount and quality of information that companies disclose regarding their public advocacy on climate policy, and persuade companies concerned about the climate crisis to make climate policy a top lobbying priority.
  2. Persuade companies to align their trade association memberships with the goals of the Paris Agreement by working within each of their trade associations to ensure the latter’s lobbying is consistent with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and align each company’s trade association memberships and contributions to other groups that directly or indirectly impact climate policy with the Paris Agreement goals.

Fohr said, “This campaign gives us another angle to address the issues critical to moving companies toward alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Katie Carter, Associate for Research, Policy and Information in the Office of Faith-Based Investing & Corporate Engagement, contributed to this report.

The Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment and Office of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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