‘Carbon bubble’ protest outside Hastings Borough Council meeting

Divest_Town_Hall_1
Blowing bubbles outside the Town Hall.

10 February, Hastings: Members of Fossil Free Hastings [1] blew bubbles outside – and leafleted Borough Councillors going into – a full council meeting of Hastings Borough Council yesterday evening (10 Feb), to warn of the risk posed to local people’s pensions by local government investments in the fossil fuel industries (coal, oil and gas).

When will the carbon bubble burst?
When will the carbon bubble burst?

For several years now, leading economists have warned of the economic dangers of the so-called ‘carbon bubble’: the over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies, the majority of whose reserves will have to left in the ground when governments start taking serious action to avert catastrophic climate change.

For example, Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, has characterised the risk as “very big indeed”, while HSBC has ‘warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies [is] at risk from the carbon bubble, with the top 200 fossil fuel companies alone having a current value of $4tn, along with $1.5tn debt.’ [2]

East Sussex County Council currently has £172m of local people’s pensions invested in the oil, coal and gas industries [3]. According to the current science, at least 80% of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) will need to remain in the ground if we are to have a reasonable chance of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius [4] – a threshold that world leaders at the 2009 Climate Summit recognised should not be crossed [5].

Council leader Peter Chowney (Labour) accepts a leaflet on his way into the Council chamber.
Council leader Peter Chowney (Labour) accepts a leaflet on his way into the Council chamber.

A spokeperson for Fossil Free Hastings, which organised the action, said: “The County Council’s £172m worth of investments in coal, oil and gas are a clear and present danger both to the climate and to local people’s pensions. Numerous organisations around the world, including Oxford City Council, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and the University of Glasgow have all made divestment commitments [6]. We urge Hastings Borough Council, a contributor to the East Sussex PensionFund, to join them by calling on East Sussex County Council to rid itself of these dangerous investments.”

Contact 07596 483 272

NOTES
[1] https://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com/
[2] ‘Carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis – report’, Guardian, 19 April 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis
[3] ‘REVEALED: UK Councils have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels’, Fossil Free UK, 24 September 2015, http://gofossilfree.org/uk/revealed-uk-councils-have-14-billion-invested-in-fossil-fuels/. The £172m figure is based on data collected through Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to administering authorities for the 2013/14 financial year. It includes direct equity holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies as well as estimated fossil fuel investments in pooled equity funds.
[4] Bill McKibben, ‘Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math’, Rolling Stone Magazine, 19 July 2012, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719
[5] In the non-binding ‘Copenhagen Accord’ issued at the end of the 2009 UN Climate Summit (COP19), ‘The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other
heads of delegation present’ noted that ‘To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius … enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.’ (http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/l07.pdf). However, even the 2 degrees ‘target’ now appears to be much more dangerous than was previously believed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2657409/
[6] See http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/ for a list of commitments from around the world.

 

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