September 16, 2014

Oxford Council first UK authority to pass divestment motion

Oxford — Oxford City Council has become the first local authority in the UK to pass a motion on fossil fuel divestment. The Council pledged to make no direct investments in fossil fuel companies for ethical reasons. [1]

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. We hope we can get the City Council to extend its divestment plan to include indirect investments as well, since much of the money invested in fossil fuels is through such investments.”

Fossil Free Oxfordshire celebrated the move but stressed that the campaign group will continue to work with the City Council to extend this principled divestment commitment to include indirect investments, as well. 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.”

“But we are not about to stop here: As we approach the campaign’s first anniversary, this significant win only strengthens our resolve to persuade Oxfordshire County Council to move the £42 million its pension fund has invested directly in fossil fuel companies,” she continues.

Fossil Free Oxfordshire first approached the Oxford City Council Finance Panel in February 2014, asking them to put fossil fuel divestment on their agenda. In response, the Finance Panel devised an ethical investment policy, which recognises the need to divest from companies involved in the extraction and refinement of fossil fuels.

At a meeting of the full Council on July 14, 2014, a motion proposed by Green Party Councillor Craig Simmons was passed. It proposed the introduction of the Finance Panel’s ethical investment policy into the Council’s treasury management strategy. The final motion, as amended by Labour Councillors, stops short of moving indirect investments. At the same meeting, the Council endorsed the Leader of the Council’s call to the Oxfordshire County Council pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Fossil Free Oxfordshire publicly announced and celebrated 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.

Fossil fuel divestment is gaining traction across Oxford with thriving campaigns across the university and church community. 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. The Socially-Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) of Oxford University will also make its first presentation on fossil fuel divestment in November. Oxford University has the largest endowment of any UK university.

Michaela Collord from the Fossil Free Oxford University campaign says, “The Oxfordshire Fossil Free campaign has been a wonderful source of energy and enthusiasm for us students. This is a big win for UK divestment, the first of its kind in the country.Oxford is sending a strong message to condemn the fossil fuel industry and its cynical efforts to block action on climate change. The council announcement comes at an excellent time to increase the pressure on other institutions in Oxford and the UK to take a stand on their involvement with the fossil fuel industry.”

Danielle Paffard, UK Divestment Campaigner says of the announcement, “Oxford is part of a rapidly growing global movement of institutions taking their links with the fossil fuel industry seriously. 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. This is an exciting first step for councils in the UK, and we’re hoping to see many more councils committing to divest, in the next year”.


Photos are available here.


Danielle Paffard, UK Divestment Campaigner, 7979817888

Melanie Mattauch, Europe Communications Coordinator, 5812 0184


Fossil Free Oxfordshire petition: Divest Oxfordshire from fossil fuels

[1] Oxford City Council motion [pdf]