Haringey moves millions out of fossil fuels
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.
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.
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.
Quentin Given is Coordinator of Tottenham & Wood Green Friends of the Earth local group
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