To: Tower Hamlets Council

Divest Tower Hamlets

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We call upon Tower Hamlets Council to:

1. Immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuels - specifically, in the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies with largest known carbon reserves (oil, coal and gas) [1] - made by Tower Hamlets Council Pension Fund or Tower Hamlets Council itself
2. Divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years
3. Pass a motion or make a public statement supporting the the principle of divestment from fossil fuel companies, promising to move toward a fossil fuel free portfolio and advocating that the London Pension Fund and Local Government Pension Scheme members to do the same.
4. To show commitment to doing the above in a timely manner by setting up a working group to report back on a strategy to move toward the goal of divestment within three months of submission of this petition.

Why is this important?

Tower Hamlets Council currently has an estimated £91,764,000 invested in fossil fuel companies. This represents 8.76% of their fund. Ethically, environmentally and economically, there is no justification for such holdings. These investments directly undermine Tower Hamlets' own commitment to 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 [2] as they are directly fueling ever riskier, costlier forms of extraction, which no longer represent the relatively bankable return they have been historically as the fossil fuel energy market grows ever more volatile.

Climate change is the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. The 20 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1981 and 2014 was the hottest ever [3] with 2015 on course to take that unenviable title [4]. Higher average temperatures are directly linked to extreme weather events such as intensified heatwaves; longer more arid droughts; wilder forest fires; stronger, more frequent storms and the resultant flooding; and glacier melt has increased drastically, which not only means rising sea-levels but more of the suns rays being absorbed rather than reflected back, causing a further increase in temperatures.

Climate change does not just manifest itself in these ever worsening weather patterns. A recent study [5] attributed the record 2007 - 2010 drought in Syria as a reason for farmers abandoning their land for the city, where their presence has been a major factor in the social unrest that led to the war that has ravaged the country ever since [6]. We now see this being played out in the form of the humanitarian and political crises with which Europe is now struggling to cope. Such events are only going to increase as our shared world becomes hotter and drier. National borders are meaningless in the face of hostile weather.

Moreover, worsening levels of air pollution are now regarded as a major world killer [7]. In Tower Hamlets an estimated 138 people a year die as a result of air pollution [8].

At the core of all these problems is the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists have unanimously concluded that these changes are a consequence of human activity, arising from the burning of fossil fuels [9]. The fossil fuel industry have taken a threefold approach to this. Firstly, they have spent significant amounts of money to create a body of disruptive disinformation campaigns that undermine climate science in the minds of the general public [10]. Secondly, they have created a lobbying juggernaut to flatten any political efforts to limit global warming [11]. Thirdly, they have expanded their business practice to focus on ever riskier, costlier and ultimately more disastrous extraction methods such as fracking and deep-water drilling; the latter having led to the largest marine oil spill in history [12].

If it is wrong to continue to wreck the Earth’s climate, then it follows that it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. There are also increasing indications that the profitability of the fossil fuel industry will decrease significantly in coming years. If action is taken to limit global warming and a large degree of carbon reserves are left in the ground, shares in fossil fuel companies will drop significantly in value [13]. As such, pension funds currently investing in fossil fuels risk exposure to this 'carbon bubble', while there is already evidence that fossil fuel-free portfolios are capable of out-performing those including fossil fuel investments [14].

For in depth analyses of these and related risks, see:
http://gofossilfree.org/frequently-asked-questions/
http://www.carbontracker.org/
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/fossil-fuel-divestment

'Do The Math' documentary:
https://youtu.be/KuCGVwJIRd0

References
[1] http://fossilfreeindexes.com/research/the-carbon-underground/
[2] http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/environment_and_planning/sustainability/carbon_reduction.aspx
[3] http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info/global/201412
[4] http://www.weather.com/news/climate/news/earth-warmest-january-may-2015
[5] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/11/3241
[6] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/150302-syria-war-climate-change-drought/
[7] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/
[8] http://www.itv.com/news/london/2015-07-15/londons-toxic-air-how-is-your-london-borough-affected/
[9] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf
[10] http://www.fossilfreemit.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FossilFreeMIT-Lobbying-Disinformation.pdf
[11] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/25/fossil-fuel-firms-are-still-bankrolling-climate-denial-lobby-groups
[12] http://www.britannica.com/event/Deepwater-Horizon-oil-spill-of-2010
[13] http://www.carbontracker.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Unburnable-Carbon-Full-rev2-1.pdf
[14] https://www.msci.com/resources/factsheets/index_fact_sheet/msci-acwi-ex-fossil-fuels-index-gbp-gross.pdf

Tower Hamlets, United Kingdom

Reasons for signing

  • Keep cleaning up Tower Hamlets
  • I would like Tower Hamlets to Divest from Fossil Fuels.

Updates

2017-07-28 06:23:41 -0400

500 signatures reached

2016-05-03 08:31:43 -0400

100 signatures reached

2015-12-20 03:16:45 -0500

50 signatures reached

2015-09-24 13:18:18 -0400

25 signatures reached

2015-09-21 09:05:06 -0400

10 signatures reached