At a meeting of the full Council on July 14, 2014, a motion proposed by Green Party Councillor Craig Simmons was passed, committing the council to make no direct investments in the fossil fuel industry for moral reasons.
Thanks to hard work from the inspiring local campaign group ‘Fossil Free Oxfordshire’ and dedicated councillors, the motion received near unanimous support and is a cause for celebration.
The group publicly announces the success this week as part of the People’s Climate Mobilisation, the largest mobilisation on climate action ever, ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York. Hundreds of thousands of people will be demonstrating over the weekend, with more than 2,000 events registered in 150 countries.
Councillor Ruthi Brandt who seconded the divestment motion says, “We are proud that Oxford is the first local authority in the country to highlight the need to stop investing in fossil fuels.This is an industry that should be winding down rather than investing in more and more extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction.”
Al Chisholm, a driving force behind the Fossil Free Oxfordshire campaign says, “We are delighted that the council has publicly recognised that the fossil fuel industry’s business model and activities are harmful and inconsistent with the Council’s mission and values. This move denies the industry the economic and moral support of another public institution.”
Fossil Free Oxfordshire celebrated the move but stressed that the campaign group was committed to going further; todays announcement ‘strengthening their resolve’ to take on the City Councils indirect investment policy, and Oxfordshire County Council, whose pension fund has £42m invested in fossil fuels.
Oxford has been a real hub of divestment activity in the UK, with powerful campaigns across the University and Church community as well. A fossil fuel divestment motion will be taken to the Oxford Diocese in November, increasing pressure on the Church of England to make a firm commitment as churches here and abroad reconsider their relationship with this damaging industry.
Following intense pressure from the Oxford University Fossil Free campaign – including supportive motions from over 50% of college Common Rooms and a letter signed by 64 academics – the Socially-Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) of the University will also make its first presentation on fossil fuel divestment in November.
Although by no means the end in Oxford, this is a positive step for both the UK and global movement. Already 29 cities, 13 universities and a number of faith groups, foundations and other organisations around the world have committed to end investments in the fossil fuel industry. In the UK organisations such as the Quakers and the British Medical Association are amongst that number, and we hope today’s announcement may spark a ripple of activity in councils across the country.
If you’re interested in encouraging your council to divest from fossil fuels, please do get in touch! [email protected]