Fossil Free Action on SPF Press Release

21st June 2016

For Immediate Release

PROTEST AS GLASGOW COUNCIL RUN-FUND POURS MILLIONS INTO POLLUTERS

On 21st June, Strathclyde Pension Fund held its Annual General Meeting (AGM), inviting their 200,000 members to present the fund’s performance and speak about future investment opportunities. The keynote session of the AGM discussed current shares in the fossil fuel industry. Fund managers were previously asked to review the feasibility of disinvesting the fund (taking money out of) from oil, coal and gas companies, which was rejected on the basis of financial risk and that engaging with these corporations might generally be more beneficial. The fund currently holds around £15 billion in overall investments, of which £752 million is invested in fossil fuel companies—making it the second biggest pension fund in the United Kingdom.

On the same day, Fossil Free Strathclyde campaigners – who are calling on the pension fund to disinvest its shares in fossil fuels and to reinvest them in long term sustainable projects – held an action to draw the fund members’ attention on the financial and ethical risks of those investments. In order to comply with the international climate treaty and to limit global temperatures rise to 2°C, it is widely accepted that 80% of known fossil fuel reserves are to become unburnable—thereby becoming ’stranded assets’ for the companies that hold them.

Fossil Free Strathclyde campaigner, Živilė Mantrimaitė, stated “The fund has already lost £26 million due to the current struggle of the coal industry and the dramatic drop in oil price, and stands to lose much more as long as it remains exposed to such risks. Furthermore, the argument that engaging with oil, coal and gas companies will bring them on a more sustainable path is invalid since it cannot prevent them to carry out their core activity, the extraction of fossil fuels, which is the main driving force of the climate crisis.

Fossil Free Strathclyde drew attention to the fact that fossil fuel assets are overvalued—experts are calling it the biggest market failure since the Lehman brothers shock of 2008. Similarly to the housing bubble in 2008, the ‘carbon bubble’ is expected to burst anytime soon. In 2014, Dave Watson, Head of Campaigns in Unison, already highlighted that “Divestment has been used effectively throughout history to place social and economic pressure on an industry or government that is causing harm. By publicly withdrawing financial support, fossil fuel divestment addresses the root of the problem – the unchecked expansion of fossil fuel companies on an endless quest for profit.”

Huge inflatables were used during the action to symbolise this carbon bubble. In addition to engaging with members of the pension fund, campaigners also raised public awareness of the link between finance and the climate crisis by positioning themselves on Glasgow’s Buchanan Steps.

Contact:

For more information: Živilė Mantrimaitė, 07521500895, zivile@zvejone.lt,

For picture inquiries: Ric Lander, 07986738752, riclander@gmail.com

ENDS

NOTES:

For more details on the case for disinvesting Strathclyde Pension Fund, consult our brief at: http://bit.ly/1U6JUn6

For a more detailed analysis of the limitations of engagement, consult our full report at: http://bit.ly/1SCztUj

For a performance review of different investment indexes and to see how alternative investments measure up against traditional portfolios, consult our full financial report at: http://bit.ly/1VQjAwG

False Solutions, part 2: Carbon Capture and Storage

By Isabella Nilsen, Politics student

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not a real solution for tackling climate change. It is expensive and comes with several risks, and might lead us to believe that we can continue using fossil fuels to the same extent as today, instead of investing into renewables and other ‘real solutions’. Furthermore, with forests providing a sustainable form of ‘carbon capture and storage’, we must also stop deforestation.

CCS

CCS plant in Canada [C] SaskPowerCCS Continue reading

Real Solutions: The Scottish Renewable Industry

Written by Laura Marion

A Bright Future

The future of renewable energies in Scotland looks bright: increasing opportunities in wind, solar and especially tidal energies come along with high cutbacks in production costs. If some investors keep betting on fossil fuels, it became evident that this choice is increasingly risky: fossil fuels’ production costs are rising and the carbon bubble threatens to burst at any time. Today renewable energies offer a viable alternative: the main Scottish investors such as for instance the Strathclyde Pension Fund, the 2nd largest Local Government Pension Scheme in the UK, would gain in long-term financial stability from dropping its fossil fuels assets and opting for green investments.

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False Solutions, part one: Nuclear Power

By Isabella Nilsen, politics student

With the ever more acute threat of climate change, it is tempting to call for technological ‘quick fixes’ which can allow us to continue living just as we are today. Of course tackling climate change will need technological solutions; however we must distinguish which ones are merely false ones, and that causing a greater damage to our environment.

Nuclear power is a false solution – it  carries the threat of accidents with consequences difficult to foresee, and there is also not yet a clear plan for where to store the radioactive nuclear waste. Furthermore, the mining of the nuclear fuel causes both disease among the miners, and damage to the environment.  With renewable alternatives available, which often are cheaper to install and might provide more jobs, investors should choose the real solutions and not invest into nuclear power.

Nuclear waste

In the process of generating electricity from nuclear power, radioactive decay is also created, which needs to be stored safely for a very long time. For example one bi-product, Technetium-99, has a half-life of over 200,000 years[1]. In comparison, our species, the Homo Sapiens, evolved  around 200,000 years ago[2]. Thereby, nuclear energy causes not only risks for species living today – but also for those to come to existence.  The storage of the radioactive waste is therefore one of the greatest difficulties associated with nuclear power. It has also led to controversy since understandably, few people want the dangerous waste to be stored close to their houses. This has led the UK’s Radioactive Waste Management having trouble to find a safe space where they can dispose the waste[3], and at the moment most of it is stored at ground level, in vaults at Sellafield in Cumbria[4].

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Reclaiming the power: Global solutions to global problems

By  Mathieu Munsch, PhD student in climate change politics

It is 4 am and I can’t sleep. A year ago, I would never have guessed that I would lie here today, by the side of the UK’s largest opencast coal mine, in a tent battered by freezing winds. In a few hours, I will disobey the law, along with hundreds of others, to march on this sordid black hole in the ground that is the Ffos-y-fran coal mine. Like most people of my generation, I have grown up with climate change – humans burn stuff, the stuff releases gas, the gas traps heat: clear and simple – but it still took me an awful lot of time to face the problem upfront. The school system I was brought up in glorified acts of resistance and vilified collaboration with an oppressive power, and there I was, turning a blind eye on the worst crime ever committed.

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SPF Engagement Strategy: Not Enough to Solve Climate Crisis

Written by Zivile Mantrimaite, climate justice campaigner

On August 31, 2015, Strathclyde Pension Fund committee rejected Glasgow City Council’s proposed resolution on fund’s divestment from fossil fuel industries. The feasibility of such act was reviewed and dismissed on grounds of engagement, stating that active engagement with fossil fuel companies will address the subject of climate change in more efficient way. Corresponding to this, Fossil Free Strathclyde campaigners have released Report on Engagement Limitations When Tackling the Systemic Issue of the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Connection to Climate Change: Case Study for Strathclyde Pension Funddemonstrating that engagement is ineffective as a solution to limit the impacts of climate change and comply with recently internationally agreed climate targets.  

We summarize our key findings below and advise the Strathclyde Pension Fund committee to review its engagement strategy and re-consider divestment option in order to truly battle the climate change.

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Uncover: Rio Tinto and Grasberg Mine

By Callum Shaw, Economic and Social History Student

On 9th September, 2008, the Norwegian Pension Fund divested $1 billion of its holdings from the mining giant Rio Tinto. The reasoning behind this was Rio Tinto’s ‘grossly unethical conduct’, with a particular focus on the controversial Grasberg mine in West Papua, New Guinea, co-owned by the US company Freeport-McMoRan. The last eight years have seen little improvement when dealing with the social and environmental damages that the mine creates, however the SPF continues its multi-million pound investment into it.

Since the invasion in 1962, West Papua has been under strict control by the Indonesian government. It has not been a peaceful occupation with the highest estimates of civilian deaths at over 500,000 during the period. The referendum which gave the authority to the Indonesian government was a charade. It consisted of just 1% of the population, forced to vote at gun point. Since then, there has been a constant local struggle, firstly to internationally recognise their plight and finally, to reclaim a free West Papua. The demonstrations have but for a few, been met with uncompromising brutality. Number of arrests at demonstrations has been rising and torture of locals is still practised commonly. Between April 2013 to December 2014 country saw extra-judicial killings by the security forces, including protest on 8th of December 2014 with 4 students shot and killed and 17 more injured.

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The Carbon Bubble: Why is it threatening to our Pensions?

By Anni Piiroinen, Politics and Theater Student

The concept of a carbon bubble was created in 2011 by think-tank Carbon Tracker in their report ‘Unburnable Carbon’. It is based on the mismatch between a) the amount of CO2 represented by fossil fuels found so far, and b) the amount of CO2 that we are able to emit if we aim to limit global warming to 2°C. In the Cancun agreements of 2010, during the UN climate talks, governments pledged to the limit of 2°C, in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. According to the Potsdam Climate Institute, staying under 2°C requires capping global carbon emissions in 2000-2050 at 886 GtCO2 (gigatonnes of carbon equivalent). A third of this ‘carbon budget’ had already been used by 2011, leaving us with 565 GtCO2 to last until 2050. However, the total potential emissions of current fossil fuel reserves were calculated to be 2795 Gt CO2, almost five times more than the carbon budget allows us to burn before 2050.  This mismatch is represented by Carbon Tracker in the figure below.

Carbon bubbleSource: Carbon Tracker Initiative, ‘Unburnable Carbon’.

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Uncovering: Exxon’s Big Lie

By Mathieu Munsch, PhD student at the University of Strathclyde

Over the summer 2015, a team of investigative journalists at the Pullitzer-price winning news website Inside Climate News uncovered what may very well turn out to be the single biggest crime a corporation has ever been responsible for.

They discovered, through meticulous gathering of evidence from archives, leaked documents and interviews with ex-employees that the oil giant Exxon Mobil was well aware of the impact of its activities on the climate as early as the late 1970s, but willingly silenced that information and embarked on a multimillion dollar campaign to spread doubt about man-made climate change and delay government action to solve it.

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Uncovering: Shell

By Isabella Nilsen

Shell is one of the companies that the Strathclyde Pension Fund (SPF) is investing in. Shell’s oil drilling and extensive exploration for resources in the Niger Delta has made an extensive damage to the communities in the area, as well as the environment. This has been going on for a long time, and it needs to stop. However, for that to happen, people need to stop profiting from the damage, which is why the SPF need to divest.

The Niger Delta is situated in the south of Nigeria, and is one of the world’s largest wetlands[1] and the home for nearly 30 million people[2].It is truly ironic that Shell claims to be ’working with the communities’[3], when they have been using substandard techniques for drilling oil that has had a lasting effect on the people living in the area: higher rates of cancer and asthma due to gas flaring[4]; oil spills leading to a lack of clean water and a lack of food safe enough to eat, all in all resulting in that many have had to abandon their homes[5].

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