A fossil fuel divestment motion (see text below) has been tabled for the Full Council meeting of Hastings Borough Council on Wednesday 13 April (6pm @ Hastings Town Hall). Please put this date in your diary now and contact your Councillor to urge them to support it! Please spread the word and encourage others to attend – the event lives on Facebook here.
Template letters for Labour and Conservative Councillors are available here:
- template letter for Labour Councillors;
- template letter for Conservative Councillors.
If you don’t already know the name of your ward then you can use this site to find out (you’ll need to have your postcode handy). You can then click here to find the names and contact details of your Councillors. Ideally, it’s best to send them a (snail mail) letter through the postal system, as this will have more impact, but if you can’t do that then please make sure to email them. Councillors contact details can be found via the aforementioned web-site (just click on the Councillor whose contact details you want to bring this information up).
DIVESTMENT MOTION TABLED FOR HASTINGS BOROUGH COUNCIL FULL COUNCIL MEETING ON 13 APRIL
Hastings Borough Council recognises that:
Fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) have played a central role in the world’s economic, social and technological development over the last 150 years but their continued use poses a serious risk to the stability of the climate upon which our well-being and economy depend. Climate change endangers the health of local residents in Hastings, both directly through extreme weather events and indirectly through impacts on food systems and global security.1
Scientists have estimated that at least half of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves will have to remain unburnt if we are to have a 50% or better chance of keeping global warming to less than two degrees Celsius2 – a dangerous threshold that world leaders at the 2009 Climate Summit recognised should not be crossed.3 Moreover, even the 2 degrees ‘target’ now appears to be much more dangerous than was previously believed, with the December 2016 UN Climate Summit agreeing ‘to pursue efforts to to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impact of climate change’.4 A rapid large-scale shift away from fossil fuels towards energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy is therefore needed to avert catastrophic climate change.
Trustees of pension funds and others responsible for investment decisions have a fiduciary duty to consider the environmental and social risks relating to their investments, including climate risks, and to adopt strategies to minimize those risks.5
As the investment risks associated with climate change are better understood, the fossil fuel reserves of energy companies could become ‘stranded assets’ – assets with little or no value – representing a substantial risk for those that invest in them, including pension funds, organisations and individuals.
HSBC has ‘warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies [is] at risk’ from this so-called ‘carbon bubble’6, and, as of 2014, almost 70% of the UK’s largest occupational pension funds reported that they consider climate change a material risk to their assets.7 East Sussex County Council currently has £172m of local people’s pensions invested in the oil, coal and gas industries.8
To date, over 500 institutions representing over $3 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the World Council of Churches, Oxford City Council, the British Medical Association and the City of Oslo.9
In response to this Hastings Borough Council pledges:
- to develop and implement a Responsible Investment Policy through which it will:
(a) divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years;
(b) set out an approach to quantifying and addressing climate change risks affecting all other investments, and
(c) focus future investments in property and other assets on areas that minimise climate change risk and continue to reduce the council’s carbon footprint.
- calls on both East Sussex County Council and the East Sussex Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels by developing and adopting Responsible Investment policies with the same scope.
1Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf
2Figure based on M. Allen et al., ‘Warming Caused by Cumulative Carbon Emissions Towards the Trillionth Tonne’, Nature, 2009, http://bitly.com/allen-2009; World Energy Outlook 2012, International Energy Agency. Cited in Mike Berners-Lee & Duncan Clark, The Burning Question (Profile, 2013), p. 32.
3In 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).
4Michael E Mann, ‘Defining dangerous anthropogenic interference’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 17 March 2009, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2657409/ ; ‘Paris climate deal: key points at a glance’, Guardian, 12 December 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/paris-climate-deal-key-points
5Fiduciary Duties of Investment Intermediaries, Law Commission, 2014. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/325509/41342_HC_368_LC350_Print_Ready.pdf
6‘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
7Perspectives, Policies & Problems: Pensions funds on climate change in their own words, ShareAction, March 2014, http://shareaction.org/sites/default/files/uploaded_files/PPPreportFINAL.pdf
8‘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.