February 16, 2015

Bristol Mayor commits to keeping city money out of deadly fossil fuels

Bristol City Council has agreed not to invest funds in the fossil fuel industry, joining 30 cities globally to make the pledge.

During the last Mayoral Question Time Mayor George Ferguson pledged to extend the council’s ethical investment policy to include a commitment not to invest in fossil fuels.

Air pollution related to the fossil fuel industry is responsible for, approximately, 5% of all deaths in the UK and nearly 200 in Bristol each year. Globally, more than 180 institutions representing over £30 billion in assets, have already committed to divest. Eighty percent of the fossil fuel industry’s oil coal and gas reserves are unburnable to limit global warming to 2C.

Mr Ferguson said: “At January’s members’ forum, I pledged to amend the Council’s ethical investment policy to include those companies whose core activities include the extraction of fossil fuels. Following discussion with relevant members of the council, I am pleased to announce that the policy has been amended to reflect this pledge.

“Ensuring the council’s policies reflect our commitment to greener, cleaner urban living is critically important, especially during our year as European Green Capital. What may appear as a minor change on paper will ensure a lasting impact on how the council does business in the future.”

At present, Bristol City Council’s funds are not directly linked to the fossil fuel industry. However, the Avon Pension Fund (APF), of which they are a member along with councils in Bath and Somerset, does have significant fossil fuel investments and so Bristol City Council would need to work with APF to freeze and withdraw those investments.

Richard Lawrence, Fossil Free Bristol campaigner and member of the Avon Pension Fund, said: “Our local council has accepted its responsibility to divest from an industry that’s destroying the planet for future generations.

“The next step is for Mr Ferguson to actively invest in clean energy and lend his full support to ongoing conversations with the Avon Pension Fund about their significant fossil fuel investments.”

Students in Bristol have demanded that Bristol University vice chancellor Professor Sir Eric Thomas commits to divesting from coal, oil and gas industries.

Rachel Simon, a student at the university, said: “Whilst the decision by Bristol City Council is encouraging, Bristol University continues to invest in, and profit from, the activities which drive climate change through their portfolio of investments.

“Clearly, this is unethical and illogical especially when set against the university’s much publicised Cabot Institute research into the drivers of climate change. It’s time for them to listen to their students demands and take the necessary action.”

The news comes after Global Divestment Day on Saturday 14th, which saw scores of people join a singing flashmob protesting against banks investments in fossil fuels take place in Broadmead to the theme of Disney’s Frozen.
Hundreds of events took place in towns and cities in 48 countries spanning six continents to put pressure on organisations to divest from oil, coal and gas industries and reinvest in clean technology. The initiative is part of the Fossil Free campaign
Rallies and protests also took place in major cities including Birmingham, Oxford, Nottingham, Swansea, York and Edinburgh.

Danielle Paffard, UK divestment campaigner at 350.org, said: “The UK divestment movement is already making a huge impact and Bristol’s decision represents a huge boost to the movement as it continues to gain momentum. In just two years, this campaign has grown from a few universities to hundreds of institutions around the world.

“We have begun to chip away at the political power of the coal, oil and gas industries in the UK and thousands of people are closing their accounts with banks that invest in fossil fuels. Through Global Divestment Day many local authorities and organisations are coming under pressure from campaigners to do the same. We need to keep the carbon in the ground and send the message to stop extracting fossil fuels. They should follow Bristol’s lead and commit to divest now.”

Bristol is currently the European Green Capital for 2015, the annual award designed to promote and reward the efforts of cities to improve the environment.