The movement to divest out of fossil fuels is gathering pace.
Now the dust has settled on the Paris climate change talks do we feel more secure about our future?
That commitment from 195 countries to work towards limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels was a welcome breakthrough that could drive investment in a carbon free world.
But the clear implication of the Paris deal is that 4/5ths of the world’s fossil fuel reserves are now un-burnable if we are to limit dangerous climate change and protect future generations. That presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney warned recently about the financial risks of continuing to invest in fossil fuels we cannot burn. Inflating the value of companies based on assets they can never burn is in danger of creating a 'carbon bubble’ and the impact of this financial bubble bursting over our pensions funds could be devastating.
Like many people, I invest in my future through a local authority pension fund and combined these funds steward £225 billion of investments in the UK. I’ve never been asked as a fund member where I want to see my money go, but looking at our fund’s investment portfolio makes for sobering reading.
Some of my money is invested in BHP Billiton for example, the 6th largest coal producer in the world, a company currently mining coal in the middle of the Borneo rainforest and accused of multiple human rights and environmental abuses in Colombia. I was privileged to meet two Colombian representatives recently on a tour organised by Friends of the Earth Scotland. It was a powerful encounter and I was able to hear first hand devastating stories about how their basic rights to clean air, water and land have been violated.
The good news is that the movement to divest out of fossil fuels is gathering pace. Scottish Churches and academic institutions such as the University of Glasgow have pledged to move all investments out of fossil fuels, and South Yorkshire became the first local authority pension fund to switch out of the most climate damaging coal and tar sands investments last month.
There are plenty of options for funds to invest more ethically while yielding a good return for our retirements. My own fund has also invested positively in social housing for example, ensuring our money is re-circulated in the local economy to support basic housing needs for generations to come.
The Paris climate deal was a signal that a carbon free world is possible, but it will take thousands of actions to now make that a reality. We can start by stewarding our pension investments more responsibly to secure the future for ourselves and our children’s children.
Councillor Mark Ruskell is Environment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP candidate for Mid-Scotland and Fife