On 4 May 2017, local elections will be held across much of the UK. These elections are a great opportunity to build local support and see more local councils divest their pensions from fossil fuels.

Whilst many of us are in despair about Brexit and Trump, we can still plant the seeds of a clean and fair energy future here in our communities.

Councillors hold much of the power over local government pension funds. We can mobilise around the May elections to win commitments to divest in party manifestos and build support among individual councillors.

Politicians are more susceptible to pressure in the run-up to elections. So now is the time to push politicians and local political parties to support divestment.  This worked in the 2016 London Mayoral election, and we can replicate this elsewhere too.

Council elections also mean change on the crucial pensions committees. We want new committee members to come into their jobs knowing that fossil fuel investments are controversial.

Elections are happening in all of Wales and Scotland, and much of England. The first step is to find out whether there are local council or mayoral elections in your area. If so, it’s game on!

We want council candidates to:

  • Make a personal pledge to support fossil fuel divestment of council pension funds
  • Push their local party to make a manifesto pledge to divest from fossil fuels and invest council pension funds into renewable energy and social housing.

How can your local government divest campaign win the elections in six steps?

1. Start now

Election time may seem a long time away but councillors and candidates are already starting their campaigns and political parties are deciding what the priorities should be if they control the council. Your campaigning now can make a big difference.

Call a meeting to get your campaign together and make a plan. And if you’re not already part of a campaign you can find your local one here, or email ellen@350.org for resources and information on how to get started.

2. Email the candidates running for councillor

Write them emails, explaining why divesting from fossil fuels is important for both financial and social / environmental / climate reasons. Include a clear ask for them to make a manifesto or personal pledge to divest the pension fund from fossil fuels and reinvest into the sustainable economy. Use our new election briefing to outline the arguments and ask.

Start off by writing to the existing councillors. Most of them will be standing again, and their email addresses are online on the council website. 

To get the email addresses of all the other new candidates for the local councils, you’ll need to ask your local parties (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem etc.). Each party with councillors will have a “Group”: Labour Group, Conservative Group, Liberal Democrats Group. Especially important people to contact are the Chair and Campaigns officer for each party “Group”.

3. Meet the candidates

Meeting candidates in person can be a good way to talk through the issues and ask them to pledge support for divestment.

You can attend the surgery (regular times when councillors make themselves available to meet with local constituents) of your own sitting councillors right now. But it’s also worth reaching out to other candidates and asking to meet them in person. Comprehensive lists of candidates may not be available until close to the election date, so you may need to ask sitting councillors and local party officials to try and find out who is running.

4. Social Media Storm!

Tweet at the candidates, asking them to support your divestment campaign.

If they make the manifesto pledge, then publicise their backing! And ask their opponents why they haven’t signed up… Create competition between the candidates.

5. Organise a public hustings event

Your local group can host a hustings for councillors. It could be focused on social justice or environmental issues – working in coalition with other community and campaign groups. You might also frame it around issues that are topical in your area, like fracking or flooding. Hustings are a great opportunity to gain councillor support, but also to build local alliances.

If you can’t organise a hustings of your own you can also attend as many other hustings as possible and ask questions about local government pensions and divestment.

Keep an eye out for more information on how to organise your own hustings.

6. Use the local press

Write letters to the local newspaper, asking if any of the candidates have committed to divest.

If you do get support from a councillor candidate, you can offer to ‘ghost-write’ a comment article on divestment for them, to go into the local newspaper. You could also arrange a photo opportunity with your campaign, or perhaps at a symbol of positive investment – a local solar energy project, for example.

And if you get manifesto commitments, it’s definitely worth press releasing these to the media – you might catalyse their opponents to follow suit.

What about the Metro Mayors?

Some areas in England are electing Mayors, like Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield City Region. Whilst the new mayors probably won’t have the power to make the decision to divest, they can be a powerful ally. Targeting the mayoral candidates with public campaigning can give divestment a higher profile – this worked well in London.

Mayoral candidates will have more of a public profile. Here are some ideas about how to engage them and the wider public about divestment. Better still, come up with your own ideas and let us know what you do.

  • Go to events where the candidates are speaking (or organise your own) and ask them whether they will personally commit to divestment and whether they will push their political party to act on it
  • Invite them to visit a local wind farm with local media. Use this as an opportunity to ask them about divestment
  • Organise a rally or photo opportunity asking the new Mayor to push for divestment.

Download our councillor briefing. You can use the information in the briefing when you contact your councillor. Email ellen@350.org or let us know what you have been up to and how it’s going, and post to social media when you have success!

Councils like Waltham Forest in London have already made a commitment to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in the local community. Let’s use the momentum we have from this victory and the opportunity of the local elections to get as many divestments commitments as possible.