A CALL TO DIVEST AVON PENSION FUND FROM FOSSIL FUELS
There is strong evidence (1) that the impact on climate change of burning even the known reserves of fossil fuels will create an unsustainable environment for the generations to come, and untold suffering to countless living beings. This fact will impact negatively on the value of investments in the industries concerned with fossil fuel extraction. Using just the fossil fuel reserves listed on the world’s stock markets would be enough to take us beyond 2°C of global warming (2). This means that more than 80 per cent of the world's known coal reserves, 30 per cent of known oil and 50 per cent of gas reserves need to stay in the ground and drilling in the Arctic is out of the question if we're to stay below two degrees. Recent drops in the oil price add to the uncertainty surrounding fossil fuels and the financial viability of some extractions presenting opportunities to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels (3). In defiance of mainstream research evidence and international policy (4), fossil fuel companies continue to extract and burn as much carbon as possible to maximise their profits. Despite the very high probability of planetary disaster they show no intention of switching away from their core business model. Our local council has a responsibility to divest from an industry that’s destroying the very future for ourselves and for our children that personal investment in a pension seeks to enhance. Instead it should reinvest in solutions to climate change. We won’t see any political progress on climate change until we can weaken the power of the fossil fuel industry. Divestment for fossil fuel investments would also minimise the council's exposure to the financial risk of the 'carbon bubble', whereby shareholders risk being left with stranded assets (worthless fuel stocks that regulation will prevent from being burned). It is a paradox that pension funds providing income for the future should at the same time be investing in the fossil fuel industry which if left to its own devices will exploit more of the fossil fuel reserves than we can safely use! Institutions around the world including local government, universities and churches are pulling out of fossil fuel investments and moving towards a clean energy future (5) It's time to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy now for inescapable moral and economic reasons. Bristol City Council have recently agreed to make a commitment to no direct investments in the fossil fuel industry and globally over 30 cities and municipalities have already committed to divestment. At present Bristol City Council’s funds are not directly linked to the fossil fuel industry. However, the Avon Pension Fund does have significant fossil fuel investments and so Bristol City Council would need to work with adjoining councils within the Avon Pension Fund to freeze and withdraw those investments. Shareholders (including pension funds) have started to challenge Exxon, Shell and BP to show how their business model is compatible with a 2 degree temperature rise (6). Some argue that engaging with fossil fuel companies is a more effective tactic than divestment. But Jonathon Porritt, one of the UK’s most esteemed environmentalists who spent years working on sustainability projects with BP and Shell, earlier this year said engagement was now futile because “hydrocarbon supremacists” at the companies had successfully ousted reformers wanting to diversify into green energy. Divestment, therefore, seems to be an unavoidable step to halting the damage and suffering which will ensue unless timely action is taken. 1 http://350.org/about/science/ 2 http://math.350.org/ 3 http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530043.100-over-a-barrel-falling-oil-prices-and-the-environment.html http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029415.700-an-oil-crash-is-on-its-way-and-we-should-be-ready.html#.VNI0c9kgGc0 4 http://www.ipcc.ch/ 5 http://zerocarbonbritain.org/index.php/zcb-latest-report 6 http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/21/bp-challenged-confront-climate-change-risk-by-shareholders
Start a Campaign to Divest From Fossil Fuels!We're all part of institutions that ought to be looking out for the public good, from city and state governments to religious institutions to other kinds of charities and non-profits. Most of these institutions invest money in stocks and bonds, and have a responsibility to divest from an industry that’s destroying our future.
Fossil Free is an international campaign calling on institutions to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in solutions to climate change. Learn more at gofossilfree.org.
Getting StartedYou don’t need 51% of your community on board to win a campaign, but public support counts. Run a petition to show that there is support for fossil fuel divestment (it’s also a great way to build up your group). Getting started is simple:
Step 1: Use the map above to search for a campaign that's already happening in your area. If you locate one, sign on and join the effort!
Step 2: If you don't see a campaign for your city, state or institution, consider starting one as a first step. You'll be able to promote your petition, gather signatures, and email those who have signed to gather support for your campaign. Host events, debates, and film nights to educate your peers about the issue, or plan a creative action to make divestment the cool thing happening in your community.
Not Ready to Start a Petition Yet?If you don't know right away where to get started, talk and meet with your friends, neighbors and coworkers about starting a campaign, and do a little research to find out who has the power to give you what you want. Remember to think outside the box about who to meet with: a diversity of experiences and opinions often makes a campaign stronger. As you build local support, you’ll be able to bring a team together to help drive your campaign forward.
Find more resources here.