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The Welsh Assembly Must Divest From Fossil Fuels – Here’s Why

What were you doing 11 years ago? I had just started my first job and celebrated my 18th birthday. Barack Obama won the Presidency. The word “mansplain” became a thing. Beyonce released Single Ladies, and Taylor Swift still made country music. Seems like only the other day doesn’t it?! It’s really not long.

But 11 years is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have left to act decisively on climate change if we are to have any hope at all to keeping world temperature increase at a maximum of 1.5 degrees celsius above pre industrial levels. Above that, even ½ degree extra warming is likely to lead to even worse droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

There are so many things we can do, at home, in our communities, in Wales and in everyday life to help keep to the 1.5C target.

One thing that is achievable in a short space of time is divestment. (basically the opposite of investment). So, taking money or shares out of a company because of what they are doing, in order to achieve change and to show that company that you don’t support what they are doing.

It’s a sort of public shaming exercise. A consumer boycott if you like.

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Against the backdrop of climate change it is quite staggering to find that all sorts of organisations still invest heavily in fossil fuel companies.

In a study published in 2014 it was estimated that nearly two-thirds of the industrial carbon pollution released into the atmosphere since 1854 can be directly traced to just 90 companies — 83 producers of coal, oil, and natural gas, and seven cement manufacturers. Companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell are on this list.

In Wales, Friends of the Earth Cymru has been campaigning for years to persuade Local Authority Pension Funds (LAPFs) to take their money out of fossil fuel companies. It’s been a long road to say the least. Freedom of Information requests in 2015 and 2017 seemed to indicate that the 8 LAPFs in Wales had around £750m – £1bn invested, directly or indirectly in these companies.

Last year Monmouthshire County Council became the first council in Wales to vote to divest its pension fund from fossil fuel companies and more recently, Cardiff Council voted to divest its fossil fuel holdings within 5 years.

The Welsh Assembly Members Pension Fund also invests in fossil fuel companies. We are in an age where the Assembly and the Welsh Government have announced climate emergency motions – they need to look at this side of things too. It’s very much a case of ‘put your money where your mouth is’, or rather, make sure your money isn’t where fossil fuel company mouths would like it to be.

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Photo by Chelsea on Unsplash

While divestment isn’t the only thing we can do on climate change, it is certainly something we can do and something we can actually do rather quickly. It just needs a few people to be willing to take a decision. Studies have shown that investments in renewable energy companies actually out perform those in fossil fuel companies so it’s financially sensible to move the money.

Last year, Ireland became the first country in the world to announce it would be divesting from fossil fuels. It’s now time for us to follow our Celtic cousins and make sure Local Authority Penson Funds, the AM Pension Scheme, Welsh Government pensions (invested in the Rhondda Cynon Taf Local Authority Pension Fund interestingly) and the new Wales Pension Partnership all divest, and do so quickly.

11 years isn’t long. The clock is ticking. We have no time left to ignore the issue. Hoping that the fossil fuel ‘leopard’ will change its spots by asking it politely is futile.

The time to divest is now.

Please help us persuade AMs to back our call for their Pension Scheme to divest by signing our e-action and let’s keep the pressure on our councils too.

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