Haringey moves millions out of fossil fuels

Quentin Given

25 January 2016

Friends of the Earth local group makes council begin to pull out of fossil fuels.

Haringey Council’s Pensions Committee has just done something remarkable - shifting one-third of its investments, around £220 million, into a low-carbon fund.

By moving its investments away from carbon-intensive industries (and that means no coal, and less oil), they are joining one of the fastest growing global campaigns ever: divestment.

About divestment

So far more than 500 institutions globally, with assets of $3.4 trillion, from churches and universities to national sovereign wealth funds and medical bodies, have made divestment commitments.

Haringey’s decision wasn’t an entirely spontaneous outbreak of good sense.

In summer 2015, 2 Friends of the Earth groups in Haringey joined together with other environment groups to launch a petition.

Haringey’s 2 local MPs signed up straight away.

By December, and after a lot of slog at street stalls, farmers’ markets and public meetings, the petition had over 2,500 signatures – more than enough to trigger a council debate.

The Pensions Committee had already taken note, and organised some internal training in October on divestment.

At that stage its members were mainly in favour of engagement with industry rather than divesting from it.

But the Paris talks had an effect too.

Officers were asked to produce a report looking at options, and had the good sense to see the financial as well as the ethical reasons for shifting out of carbon-intensive investments.

Haringey is not alone in moving out of fossil fuels.

Companies moving out of fossil fuels

In October 2015, the £2.9 billion Environment Agency Pension Fund said it would divest 90% of its coal assets and 50% of its oil and gas stocks by 2020, saying this was in line with keeping below 2 degrees, and meeting the fund’s fiduciary duties.

Europe’s largest insurer Allianz SE pulled out of coal in November 2015, joining California’s largest pension funds and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Also in November 2015, French banking giant BNP Paribas pulled out of funding coal extraction.

About local authority divestment

Divestment is now spreading to UK local authority pension funds, who in total have £14 billion in fossil fuels. 

In November 2015, South Yorkshire Pension Fund announced it would divest from companies focused on coal and tar sands

Friends of the Earth local groups are working to persuade other local authorities too – like in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

Check out our Campaign for Fossil Fuel Divestment page for more information and an interactive map showing how much your own council has invested in dirty fossil fuels.

And in Haringey we won’t be sitting on our laurels.

We will be handing in our petition to a full council meeting and propose that the Council sets a timetable for moving the remaining 2/3 of its funds away from the nastiest fuels.

Help Manchester divest from fossil fuels

Quentin Given is Coordinator of Tottenham & Wood Green Friends of the Earth local group

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