By James Cracknell
Two years ago this month I cycled from London to Paris with a group of climate activists.
We were traveling to the United Nations’ COP21 climate talks, raising awareness of the importance of the talks along the way. On the Champs-Élysées we joined with tens of thousands of others – including many who had cycled from around Europe as we did – to demand the strongest possible global deal for reducing carbon emissions.
The outcome of this event, of course, was the Paris Agreement. It is the first single deal for all the world’s nations to reduce their carbon emissions, with an aim to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius. For many people, including me, the deal is not strong nor ambitious enough. However, it is a starting point, and it is important that all political leaders – not just of nations but of regions, cities, and indeed local boroughs – do everything they can to meet the terms of the deal.
The Paris Agreement was formally ratified in November 2016 and recognises: “The need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge."
A year later, however, it became clear that Enfield Council was not responding in the ‘effective and progressive’ manner the deal demands. Last month Fossil Free UK revealed that councils across the UK were investing more than £16billion in the fossil fuel industry. It showed that Enfield Council, through its pension fund, was investing more than £60million in such companies, representing 5.6% of its £1billion total investments.
I have only recently arrived in Enfield, having moved from the neighbouring borough of Waltham Forest. There, a group was set up called Divest Waltham Forest to persuade the local council to withdraw all of its investments in fossil fuel companies. The group succeeded, as last year Waltham Forest Council became the first UK local authority to pledge to fully divest from fossil fuels.
In the words of Councillor Simon Miller: “I am proud that Waltham Forest has committed to divest from fossil fuels. Given current pressures on local authority budgets, our pension funds have a key role to play, not only in making our economy greener and our communities healthier, but as driver of sustainable, future focused investment in local areas.”
What is the significance of this? Well, ‘divestment’ is a hugely effective method for reducing carbon emissions. It recognises that the fossil fuel industry is unethical, in that it knowingly advances climate change by lobbying governments around the world to block new clean energy laws and secure huge subsidies at the expense of the less-powerful renewables industry. Just like the big tobacco firms in the middle of last century, fossil fuel companies have been exposed as morally bankrupt.
When a public institution pledges to divest from fossil fuels, it makes a bold statement. Not only is its money removed from any association with a dirty, polluting and lethal industry, but such a decision helps establish the idea that fossil fuels are finished. We simply have to end our love affair with coal, oil and gas. While there are many ways that this goal will be achieved, divestment is something beautifully simple and easy. It can be done at a local level, without hesitation. Enfield Council must pledge to withdraw its £60million investment in fossil fuels as soon as possible.
As with any campaign, a good starting point is a petition. So I am now launching one. I do hope you can sign it, share it, and perhaps even get in touch and join the new Divest Enfield campaign group. Thank you for your support.
Sign the Divest Enfield petition here: https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/p/divestenfield
Join the Divest Enfield Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/DivestEnfield