CROYDON COMMENTARY: Friends of the Earth member NICOLA BRENNAN suggests a way in which the council can help save the world and save our lives
Last year broke records for being the hottest since records began. Our use of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) is pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which will trap even more heat. As the atmosphere hots up, it will make storms ever stronger, floods more common and increase the number of extreme weather events.
We are lucky here in Croydon that we don’t yet suffer the most extreme aspects of climate change, but we are seeing changes and the floods, droughts and storms suffered in other parts of the world are already starting to impact our food supplies.
We live in a city that is suffering more and more due to air pollution. Across London it is estimated that air pollution leads to 10,000 early deaths every year.
We know that air pollution levels in central Croydon have already reached dangerous levels and they are likely to get worse, especially when the Beddington incinerator starts throwing out pollution.
We don’t expect Croydon Council to be able to solve them all on its own. However, we do think it is reasonable to expect the Council to be trying to help and not make the problems even worse.
One of the key ways that local councils, and employers and finance companies, make the problem worse is by making investments in fossil fuel companies. These investments, usually through pension funds, support fossil fuel companies to continue polluting our atmosphere and also support them in trying to extract even more fossil fuels. In order to have a chance of avoiding serious harm from climate change we know that 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must not be burnt, never mind trying to extract even more.
According to research by Fossil Free UK, in 2014 Croydon Council had around £40million invested in fossil fuel companies. We believe that this money could be much better invested in delivering clean renewable energy instead of helping to pollute our planet and putting us all at risk.
The moral and environmental case for divesting from fossil fuels is clear. However this also makes sound economic sense. Governments are already starting to restrict the use of fossil fuels and removing the subsidies they have always received. Renewable energy is growing at a phenomenal rate and is getting cheaper every day. Evidence is showing that the clever financial institutions are already starting to move their investments away from fossil fuels and into renewables.
Croydon Council wouldn’t be the first council to divest from fossil fuels. Councils in Southwark, Hastings and Cambridge have already committed to divest along with lots of universities, churches and charities, businesses and other organisations, such as the British Medical Association.
When the current administration took over the council in 2014 we were pleased to see them divest from tobacco, arms and nuclear power.
We believe that in the face of the threats to our health and our future it is right for the council to now make a commitment to end all investment in fossil fuels.
Divestment from fossil fuels would make a powerful statement that the fossil fuel industry is morally and economically unviable, and that the people of Croydon wish to support a sustainable energy future.
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Products made from Fossil fuels such as plastic bags are an essential fuel for incinerators. If Croydon and other boroughs stop supplying plastic to the Viridor Incinerator it will not have enough heat to produce electricity. Croydon is committed to burning fossil fuels .
You’d be better off burning that straw man argument. Plastic bags are produced because consumers want a cheap, convenient solution to get shopping home (bear in mind sales of new bags has plummeted since the bag tax), not to fuel incinerators. To presume plastic bags are essential for an incinerator’s viability does not, to me, form the basis of a sound argument on the investment decisions of a pension fund.
The council is one of the largest employers in the borough, and there are a lot of pensioners who rely on that pension fund making sound financial judgements to meet it’s pension commitments (or otherwise risk adding a burden to the local tax funded council’s budget to meet any shortfall).
I doubt renewable companies are yet in a position to provide the same risk / reward offer that fossil fuels do, but I’m sure the market is reviewed regularly, and if they ever get there, I’d support it.
Also, I’m with David Wickens in that renewables are in no place to be a credible alternative to more traditional base load generation.
We can’t divest from fossil fuels without an alternative for our energy needs unless we are happy to go back to pre-industrial levels of energy usage. (Incidentally, the massively reduced life span would be hugely beneficial for pension funds!)
Personally I would prefer more investment in clean coal/ carbon capture as well as more “tried and tested” nuclear generation, as well as continuing to tackle energy waste.
But the country is paying the price of having the most recent generation x?,y? can’t remember which) sell mobile phones with a degree in media studies when we should have been focusing on retaining engineering skills that pioneered the original phase of nuclear.
Pension scheme investments are one thing, but how much of the council’s day to day energy consumption is derived from renewable sources?
When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine we will need power stations running on fossil fuels or nuclear as backup. Simples. Longer term wave and geothermal may help but we are very far from dispensing with fossil fuels.
Ah the luddites lying as usual that renewables alone can close the energy gap. Dont want oil. Dont want gas. Dont want coal. Dont want nuclear. Dont want to make any hard choices.
You’re confusing, or deliberately conflating, ethical investment with energy policy. Making a choice where to invest public money based on ethical decisions does not necessarily mean any immediate halt in the use of carbon fuels, and nor has anyone – other than you – suggested that.
But redirecting investment into renewables might help to accelerate the development of those technologies to enable them to deliver more sustainable energy more quickly. Or you could just do what Trump does, and help his mates in Big Oil continue to make megabucks by burning the planet.