Divestment progress

 

  Keep It In The Ground Lewes and Divest East Sussex have been very active in the last three years, and in the wider world the divestment movement is having a transforming effect. Some local activities have been: getting the Pension Committee to commit ‘to putting 11% of the Funds held in their passive investment portfolio into the UBS Climate Aware Fund’, which has reduced investments in fossil fuel companies and increased investments in renewable energy.

As at June 2017, the East Sussex Pension Fund was estimated to have at least £150m invested in fossil fuels.

Activities included:
*Gathering over 3,600 signatures on the Divest East Sussex petition;
*Asking 104 questions at the County Council’s Full Council meetings;
*Day bus tour of Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne, Uckfield, Hailsham, Crowborough and Seaford;
*Day trips with the petition;
*Three film screenings in Forest Row;
*Delivering the “long petition” to the Council;
*Meetings with Councillors;
*Presentation to the Pension Committee;
*Presentation to the Labour Party Open meeting.

The group played a role in Hastings Borough Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and Lewes Town Council and St John the Evangelist Church in St Leonards all passing divestment motions; and helped to get UNISON to back divestment nationally; it persuaded the East Sussex Pension Committee to change its Investment Strategy Statement to recognise that “climate change poses material risks” to the East Sussex Pension Fund;

Meanwhile in the wider world:

*1024 institutions have now made some form of divestment commitment; collectively these institutions manage $7.93 trillion worth of assets
*New York City pension funds (worth $189 billion) divsted in Dec 2017
*The Church of England has recently committed to divest, no later than 2023, from those fossil fuel companies that are not prepared to align with the goal of restricting global warming to well below 2°C.
*Southwark & Waltham Forest Pension Funds committed to divest in 2016
*UNISON backed divestment in 2017
*Other divestment commitments: Ireland’s national investment fund; British medical assocation (2014)
*The City of Paris announced that it was exploring suing fossil fuel companies

The industry complained:

Published back in the middle of March 2018, Shell’s ‘Annual Report and Form 20-F’ didn’t make a lot of waves. However, comments buried deep within the Strategic Report section have been highlighted this week by 350.org, describing the report as identifying “divestment and climate litigation as material risks to the company’s bottom line.” (https://cleantechnica.com/2018/06/26/shell-acknowledges-global-divestment-movement-in-its-annual-report/)

As time went on, though, it became clear that divestment was squeezing the industry. Peabody, the world’s biggest coal company, announced plans for bankruptcy in 2016; on the list of reasons for its problems, it counted the divestment movement, which was making it hard to raise capital. Indeed, just a few weeks ago analysts at that radical collective Goldman Sachs said the “divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past five years”. (taken from Bill McKibben’s useful December 2018 piece for the Guardian)

October 2018: BP boss Bob Dudley launched a wide-ranging attack on the divestment movement that’s calling on institutional investors to sell down their oil stocks, rejecting warnings from the likes of the Bank of England that hydrocarbons present a risk to the financial system.

There are “people who want to drive a wedge between the energy industry and investors -- between oil and money,” Dudley said on Wednesday at the Oil & Money conference in London. “They push for potentially confusing disclosures, raise the spectre of a systemic risk to the financial system from stranded assets, and campaign for divestment.”’’ (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-10/bp-slams-oil-stock-divestment-in-call-for-collaborative-path)