What is fossil fuel divestment? And is your council funding climate change?

31 Aug 2017
UK councils invest billions of pounds of our pension money into companies drilling for new coal, gas and oil – making climate change worse.

It’s plain wrong that money we put aside for our future is being used to make that future worse. It's as immoral as investing in pornography or tobacco.

Join people worldwide asking institutions to “divest” from fossil fuels – pulling their investments out of climate-wrecking companies.

What is divestment?

Divestment means moving money out of unethical companies. This strategy is famously linked to the dismantling of apartheid by putting moral pressure on the regime in South Africa.

Pension funds and fossil fuels

Do you pay into a pension? Most of us do, these days.

We hand over our cash for it to be invested on our behalf. We do it so we can have some security in the future.

But there is a conflict in our pensions – because it turns out that large amounts of our pension cash are invested in fossil fuel companies.

How much do councils invest in fossil fuels?

UK local authority pension investments in fossil fuels are a whopping £14 billion.

That’s over £200 for every man, woman and child in the UK.

Why divest from fossil fuels?

Oil giants like Shell know the scale of the threat from climate change.

They know that to keep climate change in check, most existing reserves of coal, oil and gas are unburnable. Yet they continue to explore for new sources of fossil fuels. Their actions are as morally bankrupt as the worst tobacco and arms companies.

Calling for divestment on fossil fuel companies is a moral issue. It’s a way for people to say “we don’t want our money invested in companies who behave like this”.

But divestment also ramps up the pressure on oil companies and governments.

Governments do too little on climate change because the pressure from the fossil fuel companies for inaction is intense. And the public demand for action is not strong enough.

Divestment ramps up the pressure on oil companies and governments.

Every decision by every institution to divest is a reputational blow to the fossil fuel industry. It’s a visible rejection of those businesses by ordinary people concerned about their future .

It can influence more progressive government policies – as happened with divestment campaigning against apartheid South Africa. 

Divestment is successful

Worldwide, campaigns have persuaded institutions – valued at over $5 trillion – to divest from fossil fuels. This success is happening in the UK too.

Local authorities can lead divestment

Local campaigners have scored big successes in the last year.

Campaigners in Haringey, Waltham Forest, Southwark and South Yorkshire have all persuaded their councils to move money out of the coal, oil and gas companies whose actions are fuelling climate change.

Help Manchester divest: sign the petition

Local authorities were at the forefront of challenging apartheid through their divestment campaigns.

We’re calling on local authorities to lead the way again, and divest again, but this time from fossil fuels.

Everyone deserves a pension that isn’t wrecking their future.

How much does your council invest in dirty energy?

Find your local campaign

The divestment juggernaut is really starting to gain speed. Find out where the local divestment campaign is in your area, and please join in.

Infographics

We have created a series of infographics to help divestment campaigning where you live. Click on the image to access the full selection.

 

Find out more

The ethical and financial arguments for divestment [PDF]

 

This is an updated version of a blog first published on 25 September 2015.