The Fossil Fuel Five

In a new report by DivestWMPF, we investigate whether West Midlands Pension Fund can trust the fossil fuel majors to stop climate breakdown.

Since the IPCC’s report into the global effects of 1.5°C of warming, calls have increased for local government pension funds to divest from fossil fuel investments and invest in clean energy. However, the fossil fuel industry is investing billions of dollars in renewables, so is divestment the right choice, or are WMPF funding climate breakdown? This report looks specifically at the five fossil fuel majors in which WMPF invests and asks: are they leading the energy transition?

Read the report here.

Reacting to the threat of extinction

In London yesterday, protesters from Extinction Rebellion closed five bridges. This was an act of desperation, but when government and the media continues to ignore the scale of the climate crisis, and will not listen to the scientists, desperate measures are called for.

In a series of tweets, George Monbiot spells out the crux of the crisis, and why the possibility of extinction of our species needs to be taken seriously.

1.5C is an arbitrary figure. There is no guarantee that this is a “safe” level of global heating, below the threshold between one climatic state and another. It could be 1.383C. Or 1.649C. Because these are highly complex systems, we have no idea where the tipping point lies.
The transition, when it comes, is likely to be abrupt and drastic – this is what has happened in the past. Complex systems seek equilibirum. When they are knocked out of one stable state, they flip into another, often entirely different state.
The different state could be inimical to human life, and many of the other lifeforms with which we share the planet, which, like us, have evolved to survive the current climate.
The ony honest answer is that we have *no idea* of where the threshold lies. We cannot compute the full range of feedbacks between atmosphere, oceans, terrestrial carbon sinks and biotic responses.
All we can say is that any gradual increment in temperature rise could be the last, before sudden, cascading #ClimateBreakdown occurs. So what does this mean for policy?
It means we must treat the threat of irreversible climate breakdown as a global emergency, with immediate and drastic measures to leave fossil fuels in the ground, get livestock off the land, allow the rapid drawdown of carbon through reforestation.
In other words, to allow the systemic healing mechanisms, that maintain the current climatic equilibrium, to kick in. The overwhelming priority for human welfare is a Marshall-scale plan for the planet. But no government is yet committed to this.
This is why the work of @ExtinctionR and other rebels against inaction is crucial. Society is like an amoeba: it moves from the margins, not from the centre. Government will not lead this change. But we can.

Part of our response has to be to stop funding the companies which are doing so much to block government action, which are extracting the carbon and funding their toxic business models. We urgently need to take our pension money out of big oil and put it into the new economy.

West Midlands Pension Fund taking ‘inadequate action’ on climate risks

A new report from Friends of the Earth comparing climate risk performance of local government pension funds has found that West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) is inadequately preparing for financial risks associated with climate breakdown. The report places WMPF in the second lowest category of funds – those that acknowledge the risk of climate breakdown but have taken inadequate action.

These funds are taking some action, but these are heavily reliant on unclear or ineffective engagement strategies. These funds need to expand out of their overly narrow focus on engagement, and also ensure that engagement activities have clear goals and deadlines. These funds’ failure to address climate risks adequately puts them at serious risk of breaching their fiduciary duty.

Climate breakdown is urgent

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report warning that the planet is expected to reach 1.5 degrees within as little as 12 years. One billion people will regularly endure conditions of extreme heat. Sea levels will rise exposing up to 69 million people to flooding. Up to 90 percent of coral reefs will die. Fishery catches will decline by 1.5 million tons.

1.5 degrees is ‘ridiculously aspirational‘. As the planet warms, a domino effect of feedback loops risk pushing the temperature much higher, as much as 4 – 5 degrees.

Extreme and urgent actions are required. Notwithstanding that the world into which pensioners retire will be significantly affected by climate breakdown, local government pension funds are challenged with serious financial risks. To avoid the more catastrophic effects of climate breakdown, much of the proved reserves of the fossil fuel industry will have to remain in the ground.

Despite assurances to shareholders, the fossil fuel industry is putting the brake on meaningful action from policymakers by pouring millions into lobbying efforts, notably in the US midterms where unprecedented political spending helped it to defeat several green policies. Shareholder engagement is not successful at changing the core business model of companies, so it is time for local government pension funds to completely divest from fossil fuels.

WMPF must divest from fossil fuels

West Midland Pension Fund administrators have ignored the call from Birmingham City Council to divest. The remaining member regions including Coventry City Council now need add their voice and force WMPF to protect their stakeholders and divest from fossil fuels. Not doing so is to ignore what the UN chief calls the ‘direct existential threat‘ of climate breakdown.

Coventry Rise Follow Up Meeting

Thank you to the many of you who joined Divest WMPF On the 8th of September as part of the ‘Global Rise For Climate‘ day of action.

On Wednesday 17th October we invite you to come along to our meeting in Coventry and learn more about the Divest WMPF campaign and how you can get involved.

Sign up here

We are campaigning to get Coventry City Council to back the call for the local government pension fund to stop funding climate change and drop their investments in oil, coal and gas including fracking.

This is part of our regional campaign to encourage ALL West Midlands Councils to back this call and ultimately to see West Midlands Pension Fund become a fossil free fund.

Whether you are new to campaigning or an experienced campaigner – just want to find out more or would like to join the team – all are welcome!

Sign up in Eventbrite or Facebook

Shell and Exxon Join Greenwashing Initiative

The fossil fuel industry is worried about divestment. As extreme weather events play out on the news, a desperate industry is increasingly turning to greenwashing.

DeSmog notes that Exxon have joined the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative. This includes a “drop in the ocean” of $1 billion towards Carbon Capture and Storage and transition to gas. So nothing that is going to make any significant impact on climate change. But perhaps just enough to convince local leaders not to divest. We mustn’t be taken in. As the article notes, in this initiative there is:

  • no commitment to works towards effective carbon pricing both globally and at national level,
  • an onus on governments to first create policy framework without a commitment to lobby for this,
  • no commitment to emissions or energy transition targets over the next 30 years to 2050,
  • no commitment to bring all natural gas fugitive emissions across full supply chain below on percent,
  • and no quantitative commitment to increase research and development spending on clean and renewable energy.

What these recent announcements do tell us is of the willingness of an unstainable industry to spend billions on shallow PR exercises to give it a sheen of acceptability. We call on local leaders to show their real commitment to our precious climate by completely divesting local government pension funds and instead investing in companies that are making a real difference with renewables.