Carbon crusade: Green calls for MPs’ pension divestment of fossil fuels

Carbon crusade: Green calls for MPs’ pension divestment of fossil fuels
A Green Party MP has called for Parliamentary pensions to be divested from the fossil fuels industry. Caroline Lucas says the Contributory Pension Fund, worth £487million, should join 800 corporations in withdrawing $50 billion in investments.

The MP for Brighton Pavilion wrote to Brian Donohoe, chairman of the fund’s board of trustees, outlining her concern that the fund is actively contributing to global warming by investing in fossil fuels.

Speaking to the Guardian, Lucas said “Parliament should be demonstrating a positive way forward,” adding it was “not helpful” if parliamentarians fail to set an example of ethical investment and “potentially accelerate climate change.”

Her case for divestment is also economic, she says.

“These pension funds might not be performing as well as they might appear, once you factor in the fact that the investment in fossil fuels could well be unrealizable if we take seriously the fact we need to be weaning ourselves off fossil fuels and stay below 2C warming,” Lucas said.

Her campaign to divest MP’s pensions was given extra weight by comments from Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, who said the “vast majority of reserves are unburnable,” especially if climate change is to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius.

Lucas’ suggestions for MP’s pensions are part of an increasingly widespread campaign for sustainable and ethical investments. According to a study by the University of Oxford, the campaign for divestment from fossil fuels is the fastest growing of its kind in history.

Reuters / Albert Gea

Since September there has been growing public and mainstream support for the movement. The heirs to the Rockefeller fortune announced on September 22 that they would withdraw all their investments from fossil fuels, accounting for 7 percent of their $860 million empire.

The Rockefellers are the latest in a series of globally significant groups who have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, including the World Council of Churches.

The campaign for divestment has further targeted universities. In September, the University of Glasgow became the first European university to vote to remove all its endowment from fossil fuels.

Following the divestment of 13 US colleges, there is increasing demand for UK universities to divest their endowments.

UK banks are also facing pressure. The campaign group Move Your Money held demonstrations HSBC’s UK headquarters on Monday to raise the profile of their campaign ‘Divest!’ The campaign is calling for the Big 5 (HSCB, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds and Santander) to withdraw their investments in fossil fuels.

Collectively the banks have more than £66 billion invested in fossil fuels. Campaign Director Charlotte Webster said “fossil fuel investment has never been environmentally acceptable. It is now no longer socially acceptable. It is fast becoming economically unacceptable too.”

The campaign hopes to force banks to place climate change on their agenda by issuing an ultimatum – change within three months, or customers will leave.

“People’s everyday savings and investments are ultimately being used by banks to fund climate change, something we’ve found the public simply don’t want,” Webster said.