Divest For Their Future

In Birmingham, Coventry, and around the globe up to a million young people filled the streets to call for climate action for the Youth 4 Schools Strike. Many are worried about having a habitable planet when they got old. A future which the political class has decided to abandon by its inaction. Many other young people, mostly in poor countries, are living with the realities of 1C of warming right now. Their stories – like Brianna Fruean, 20 in Samoa in the South Pacific where they already have extreme cyclones, floods and droughts – are heartbreaking.

The school stikers are demanding climate action. It is the responsibility of the government to transform its policy agenda to put climate at the heart of every decision. Local government also has to play a part to play. Cities use two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions, so have an important part to play in reducing global emissions.

But as well as having a green policy agenda, which West Midlands councils claim to have, our local government has to demonstrate its commitment. It needs to reinvest the hundreds of millions of pounds that its pension fund, WMPF, has invested in the same dirty fuels which are condeming people like Brianna Fruean in Samoa to cataclysmic conditions caused by climate breakdown. Divesting these £ millions now is a small step, but it sends a strong signal that BP, Shell and the rest of the dirty fuel industry are losing their hold on our economy and our politicians. The youth have spoken. Our councils must respond.

Fossil Free Coventry Launch

DivestWMPF are excited to be joined by a new sister group, Fossil Free Coventry. This group aims to move Coventry to a fossil free future by divesting from fossil fuels and by cutting its own carbon dioxide emissions.

The launch event for the new group is tomorrow, Saturday 9th March 2019 at Broadgate, Coventry at the Green Week Sustainability Market. We have a stall from 9am until 5pm. Here’s what we have planned:

  • Letter writing – Call on Coventry Council to divest from fossil fuels and get more serious on cutting carbon emissions by writing to your local councillor.
  • Games for Change – Play Tom’s new Games for Change.
  • Petitions – We have petition. for Coventry City council to divest the local government fund from fossil fuels. Chat to us about our demands and sign the petition.

We have a flyer here. Here are some links:

See you there!

Introducing Fossil Free Coventry

We are currently preparing for the launch of ‘Fossil Free Coventry'(FFC). The Fossil Free Coventry team continued to grow at our meeting last Wednesday. We will be launching the group during Green Week from 4th – 10th March.

Fossil Free Coventry will collaborate with Divest WMPF to secure a commitment from Coventry City Council to push the pension fund to divest from fossil fuels whilst also working to speed up movement towards a fossil free Coventry.

We will be keeping you up to date on developments via this blog and on the Divest WMPF Facebook page and the forthcoming Fossil Free Coventry Facebook page, alternatively contact us via the form below if you want to become more involved.

We hope that 2019 will see the development of similar sister groups across the West Midlands.

Together we can make divestment happen and work to make the West Midlands ‘fossil free’.

2018 A Year in Divestment

I thought it would be worth reviewing what we’ve achieved this year in our campaigning for the West Midlands local government pension fund (WMPF) to divest from fossil fuels.

2018 kicked off with fantastic news of £500 funding for the campaign from Edge Fund organised by Alex. Tim attended a public health and climate change conference and made several valuable contacts. Until joining the campaign, I had never considered the effects of climate change on public health, but it is actually considered to be one of the major risks in the coming years.

Throughout the year, the team has been busy holding meetings and spreading the word via exhibiting at and attending events, including at Birmingham City University and a multi-faith stall.

In March, Kay attended a UNISON meeting and was due to present a motion for divestment, but unfortunately there were insufficient attendees. In 2019, I hope that we can get the local union branches on board as key supporters of the divestment campaign.

Also in March we were invited to speak to the Kings Heath All Saints Church Justice Peace and Green Group. They were really interested in the campaign, and reminded me of how much action church groups are taking. One of my personal objectives for 2019 is to spread awareness of climate justice within churches in Birmingham. In December I joined in a personal capacity a protest at the BBC in Birmingham organised by Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action, some of whose members have been arrested for direct action this year.

In April we started to prepare for the council elections in May. Elections provide a fantastic listening opportunity for the candidates, so we sent out pledges calling for the candidates to support fossil fuel divestment. The response was pretty positive. Many individual candidates from different parties signed up, as well as whole party groups like the Liberal Democrats. We published a complete list of candidates here.

In other news from the international divestment movement, we heard in July that Ireland had decided to divest from fossil fuels. This was to be followed by hundreds of further announcements around the globe until in December, the 1000th institution pledged to pull out of fossil fuel investments. The current total today stands at nearly $8 trillion. This is enormously important because it demonstrates to institutional investors that it is no longer acceptable or prudent to profit from catastrophic climate change.

The summer heatwave brought climate change to the attention of many people, together with a significant report warning of a hothouse earth if tipping points are crossed. This prompted us to send out an email to councillors across the region calling on them to take urgent action to divest. This call was picked up by the leader of the Conservative group in Coventry City Council, Cllr Gary Ridley who asked a question in the council meeting. To follow up from this we decided to produce a report in which we found that the fossil fuel companies which WMPF invests in are not serious about action on climate change, demonstrated by their tiny (3%) investment in renewables. We had some fantastic support from Labour Councillor Cllr Bally Singh and we hope that we will soon be able to get cross party support for a council motion.

In October the United Nations IPCC released a bombshell report warning us that we only have 12 years to take drastic action to limit the most catastrophic effects of climate breakdown. For many people and governments, this was a wake up call. No longer can we continue with business as usual. But for those who follow climate change in the news, many of us felt a sense of hopeless despair that the dire warnings of scientists are not being heeded by governments. Currently the planet is on a trajectory towards over 3C taking us over expected tipping points and an uncertain future for us and our children. With millions around the world set be affected by rising sea levels, droughts and extreme weather, how can it be that even our local government continues to fund fossil fuel polluters?

The answer is that it is time for people to take the future of the planet into their own hands. We shifted our campaign focus to Coventry starting with a showing of the fracking film Power Trip. We found hope in the terrific response to the Rise for Climate action in September. And this was followed up with two meetings attended by many new members. There is passion for change in Coventry, and we are trying to keep the momentum up as we hold another open meeting in January which we encourage anyone interested to attend (sign up here). Our aim is to spin off a new campaign group, launching with actions in March. Watch this space – or join us!

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.