May Day Revellers and County Council Candidates Support Fossil Fuel Divestment

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See all the photos from the day here

 

Global Divestment Mobilisation kicked off in Oxford as campaigners from Fossil Free Oxfordshire asked revellers seeing in May Day in Oxford to show their support for divestment from fossil fuels by having their photograph taken. There was enthusiastic support.

During Global Divestment Mobilisation, thousands of people everywhere will highlight the impacts of our institutions’ investments in fossil fuels and demand they do the right thing: Divest!

 

Al Chisholm from Fossil Free Oxfordshire said:

We were so impressed that people who had heard that we would be here this morning on social media hunted us out to have their photos taken and show their support for divestment.

Pete Wallis, who is a member of the Oxfordshire County Council Pension Fund and a supporter of Fossil Free Oxfordshire said:

“May Day is a celebration of spring and we have been asking candidates for the Oxfordshire County Council elections to look to brighter future for the climate and the planet and support divesting the Oxfordshire LGPS from fossil fuels.”

Fossil Free Oxfordshire emailed the following question to all candidates who were contactable:

“As is well known, burning fossil fuels is causing climate change, and to keep to the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees of warming most known reserves of coal, oil and gas will need to remain underground. The companies that are still looking for new reserves (driving this) represent risky investments. The County Council administers the Local Government Pension Scheme which currently invests over £100 million in fossil fuels. This money could be better invested locally in socially relevant schemes and infrastructure such as housing, energy efficiency or renewable energy. The Pension Fund Committee has acknowledged the risks to the pension fund associated with investing in fossil fuel companies. Would you favour an end to the Council Pension Fund investing in the financially unsound companies that are driving climate change?”

Replies were received from candidates for each of the major parties standing in the County, the Conservatives, Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP (alphabetically by surname):

 

From Catharine Isabel Arakelian, Labour Party Candidate for Kidlington South:

YES

From Jon Bounds, Labour Party Candidate for Abingdon North:

Thanks for the question.

Yes, I would fully support the Country Council using it’s purchasing and investing power to support green and socially responsible schemes where ever it can. Also as someone with a very small piece of the pension scheme I want my savings to be as ethically invested as possible too.

From Peter Coggins, Liberal Democrat County Council Candidate for Churchill & Lye Valley:

Your e-mail has been forwarded to me by my colleague Roz Smith.
I am strongly in favour of putting a stop to Oxfordshire Council’s Pension Fund investing in the financially unsound companies that are driving climate change.The Council has a duty to protect the people of Oxfordshire from the adverse effects of climate change. The Council should disinvest from these companies for moral reasons as well as for reasons of financial risk.

From Hazel Dawe, Green Party candidate for Cowley:

I whole heartedly support fossil fuel divestment. I have been on divestment demonstrations in Oxford, in one singing protest songs with the Sea Green Singers. I have signed every petition on divestment which has come my way.

As a Green Party candidate I take all measures to combat climate change very seriously. Divestment from fossil fuels investments and investing in truly renewable alternative energy sources is key to this. I have solar PV panels on my own roof at home.

From Tim Eden, Green candidate for Didcot West:

As a Green candidate, of course I will be working towards persuading council and the Pension fund committee to divest into other sources. I will be pointing out the thriving (at least for now(!)) electric mini plant as proof that other investments are sound. We should not promote the slow destruction of our work because it is simply inconvenient to alter our habits.

From: Helen Evans, Labour Party Candidate for Iffley Fields and S Mary’s:

Thank you for your email.

I wholeheartedly support Fossil Free Oxfordshire’s campaign to stop the County Council’s Pension Fund investing in fossil fuels. The Labour City Council’s Pension Fund has already stopped such investments and a Labour County Council would do the same. As you rightly say investing in fossil fuels contributes to climate change and presents a risky investment for the Council’s Pension Fund.

If elected I would be happy to meet to discuss how I can support your campaign going forward.

From Ted Fenton, Conservative candidate for Witney West and Bampton:

Thank you for the question. I am very much in favour of a cleaner environment and a society that relies as little as possible on fossil fuels and to as great an extent as possible on renewable energy. I would never knowingly support investment in any financially unsound company.

From James Fry, Labour Party candidate for St Margaret’s:

I fully support your campaign. It is one case where the argument is strong on both investment and ethical grounds.

From Andy Graham, Liberal Democrat candidate for Chipping Norton:

As an advocate of protecting this planet from carbon emissions and fully behind renewable energies and solar farm as I have supported the solar farm in Charlbury I fully support taking action re pension funds as mentioned in your email
I will look into this if elected and look to take the appropriate action

From Alan Harris, UKIP candidate for Deddington:
On this matter I’m against UKIP policies on fracking. We are an island that should be investing in solar farms and wind energy

100 million could and should be invested in to the NHS.

I am also against HS2. This money could be invested in to roads and updating the rail service we have already in the country not a rail service to make a journey 10 minutes quicker.

From John Howson, Liberal Democrat candidate for St Margaret’s:

Thank you for your request about the Lib Dems position on the investment policies of the Oxfordshire Pension Fund . Cllr Jean Fooks has been the LibDem member of this committee for some years and has always taken a great interest in the Committee’s Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Policy. She has pressed for climate change to be recognised as of considerable concern for the Fund’s investments and strongly supported engaging with fund managers on this topic. At the March meeting of the Committee, she was very pleased to support the Chairman’s proposal to amend the Committee’s Investment Strategy as below:

Investment Strategy approved subject to the addition of the following to the first sentence of the Committee’s Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Policy to read as follows (amendment in bold italics):

‘The Committee recognises that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, including that of climate change, can have materially significant investment implications.’

I am sure we will continue to press this line in the new Council after Thursday.

From Stuart Sutherland MacDonald, Green Party candidate for Witney North and East:

The Greens are committed to cutting out fossil fuels and promoting investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
One of the first actions taken by the Greens on Oxford City Council, after being elected to Chair the Council’s Finance Panel, was to work with Fossil Free Oxfordshire to amend the City’s Treasury Management Strategy (which governs its invests) to insert the following ethical clause.

The Council will not knowingly invest directly in businesses whose activities and practices pose a risk of serious harm to individuals or groups, or whose activities are inconsistent with the Council’s mission and values. This would include, inter alia, avoiding direct investment in institutions with material links to:
a. Human rights abuse (e.g. child labour, political oppression)
b. Environmentally harmful activities (e.g. pollutants, destruction of habitat, fossil fuels)
c. Socially harmful activities (e.g. tobacco, gambling)

The inclusion of ‘fossil fuels’ as an environmentally harmful activity was hotly debated, but the arguments put forward by FFOx and the Greens won the day, making Oxford City Council the first Council in the Country to divest from fossil fuels.

The Council have not only divested from fossil fuels but started to redirect its investments towards more socially and environmentally beneficial causes. For example, the Council have started to purchase houses to provide social-rented accommodation and put money into renewable energy schemes. 

From Cllr Alison Rooke, Liberal Democrat candidate for Abingdon East

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

I am certainly against the county council pension fund investing in any unsound investments, and particularly in those causing environmental damage. It is the pension fund’s duty to get the best return for present and future public service pensioners of Oxfordshire; I am very keen for the pension fund to invest in both ecologically and morally sound companies.

From Roz Smith, Liberal Democrat candidate for Headington and Quarry:

Thank you for taking the time to write. As a member of the Green Liberal Democrats I wholely agree with your group’s aims and would be in favour of the County Council’s pension fund ceasing investments in fossil fuels and any companies driving climate change.

From Martin Stott, Labour/ Co-op candidate for Kennington & Radley:

I strongly agree with this. I have signed petitions as an alumnus of the universities I’m a graduate of – Oxford, LSE – demonstrated at the Oxford University one ( the Police have photographic evidence!) and lobbied my own pension fund (Warwickshire CC).

Happy to be publically associated with this campaign.

From Councillor David Williams, Green Party candidate for Iffley Fields and St Mary’s

The Greens are committed to cutting out fossil fuels and promoting investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
One of the first actions taken by the Greens on Oxford City Council, after being elected to Chair the Council’s Finance Panel, was to work with Fossil Free Oxfordshire to amend the City’s Treasury Management Strategy (which governs its invests) to insert the following ethical clause.

The Council will not knowingly invest directly in businesses whose activities and practices pose a risk of serious harm to individuals or groups, or whose activities are inconsistent with the Council’s mission and values. This would include, inter alia, avoiding direct investment in institutions with material links to:
a. Human rights abuse (e.g. child labour, political oppression)
b. Environmentally harmful activities (e.g. pollutants, destruction of habitat, fossil fuels)
c. Socially harmful activities (e.g. tobacco, gambling)

The inclusion of ‘fossil fuels’ as an environmentally harmful activity was hotly debated but the arguments put forward by FFOx and the Greens won the day making Oxford City Council the first Council in the Country to divest from fossil fuels.

The Council have not only divested from fossil fuels but started to redirect its investments towards more socially and environmentally beneficial causes. For example, the Council have started to purchase houses to provide social-rented accommodation and put money into renewable energy schemes.


On the County the Greens have constantly asked questions on Disinvestment of the Chair of Pensions Committee raised the issue in Committee on numerous occasions and spoken in full Council seeking a disinvestment strategy. Our reps have even attended the Pensions Committee supporting Disinvestment campaigners plus rallies and demos on the issue.

Nuala Young, Green Party candidate for St.Clements and Cowley Marsh

I joined in the lobby for divestment and attended the County pension fund meeting. We were pleased that the pension funds committee added a phrase to its policy stating that it would not invest in any funds that were found to be unethical. The assumption was that extraction and use of fossil fuels would be harmful and therefore unethical. If I were elected as County Councillor, I would make it part of my role as County Councillor to oversee this extra condition and hold the County to these promises, checking the list of investments to find if the County was still investing in companies involved in fossil fuels.

Do let me know if you need any further statement from me.

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