Divestment might not be the first thing you think about when it comes to taking climate action. However, it's one of the most effective levers we can pull to move money away from fossil fuels. Thanks to our pals over at Friends of the Earth Scotland for this great overview of divestment.
If we are to live up to our promises and commitments in the Paris agreement, we have to end fossil fuel subsidies, stop new exploration and extraction, completely divest from fossil fuels, and keep carbon in the ground. - Greta Thunberg (22/4/21), speech at an online hearing of US Congressional committee on fossil fuel subsidies
Would you like to be a part of a global movement of universities, faith groups, councils and entire countries who are ending their investments in fossil fuels and making a positive difference for climate justice? Welcome to the campaign for fossil fuel divestment!
As someone who cares deeply about protecting the planet, I have often felt overwhelmed by the scale of the climate crisis. I never imagined that I would become passionate about pension fund investments or that they could be a way to tackle climate change. Yet, this is exactly what happened four years ago when I attended a Divest Parliament training weekend on how to speak to MPs about climate issues.
The weekend turned out to be life-changing as I met incredible volunteers from across the UK who are working to persuade politicians, councils and institutions to end their investments (a.k.a divest) their pension funds from the coal, oil and gas companies that are fuelling the climate crisis.
Divestment from fossil fuels is vital because when 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016, they agreed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Burning fossil fuels is the key driver of climate change. So if we are to stop climate breakdown, the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. We cannot keep investing our money into companies like BP, Shell and Exxon that are expanding their fossil fuel burning and lobbying governments to prevent climate action
It has never been more urgent for us to act. July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth and communities around the world, who have done the least to cause the climate crisis, are already suffering from wildfires, rising sea levels and extreme weather.
In spite of the growing climate emergency, however, local councils, universities, MPs and faith institutions in the UK are investing £1.75 billion from their oil and gas investments between 2017 and 2020 in fossil fuels through their pension funds. Pension Funds manage the money you save towards retirement by investing it in a range of things like property or shares in companies.
These investments are not only harming the climate but they are also putting pension fund members’ pensions in jeopardy as fossil fuel investments pose an increasingly dangerous long-term financial risk to investors. Local government pension funds, for example, lost an estimated billions of pounds.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of our pension funds contributing to climate change, they can be a key part of the solution. If we divest them from climate-wrecking fossil fuels, we can then instead invest in ethical alternatives, such as renewable energy and social housing.
Thanks to the efforts of campaigners, the divestment movement is growing around the world and over 1,300 organisations have already begun divesting $14.58 trillion from fossil fuel companies. These include the New York State pension fund, the Welsh Parliament, 89 UK Universities and the country of Ireland.
Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth Scotland Scotland are also supporting groups across the UK who are campaigning for their local council pension funds to divest. So far, 18 councils have made either full or partial divestment commitments, including Waltham Forest, Southwark and Cardiff.
If you would like to be part of this exciting divestment movement, there has never been a better time to get involved. As the UK prepares to host the UN COP26 Climate Conference in November, we have a vital opportunity to put pressure on our councils, MPs, universities and other institutions to show climate leadership and to stop investing in fossil fuels.
From Hastings to the Highlands, there are divestment groups across the UK who would love to hear from you and there is lots of support available from Friends of the Earth, Divest UK and Friends of the Earth Scotland.
These are just some of the things you can do:
By working together, we can achieve a fossil free future!
Thanks to Sally Clark at Friends of the Earth Scotland for contributing this article to POW UK
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