New York today, Bradford tomorrow…

New York Today, Bradford Tomorrow

 

Last Saturday, fossil fuel divestment campaigners gathered in Bradford to celebrate New York City’s decision to ditch its fossil fuel investments and called on Bradford council to do likewise. To celebrate the news, the campaigners  took to the streets of Bradford singing a fossil free version of Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ classic. [1]

New York City has announced earlier this month  that it is divesting its $191 billion pension funds of fossil fuels. Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, also announced that the city is suing the world’s largest oil and gas companiesfor damages caused by climate change in a two-pronged assault that he said is aimed at “standing up for future generations”.

Here in West Yorkshire, the Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaign is calling on Bradford Council, which manages the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, to follow New York’s lead and sever its ties with the fossil fuel industry. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund invests £933 million in fossil fuel assets.

Notably, West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s largest fossil fuel investments are in BP and Royal Dutch Shell [2], two of the five defendantsin New York City’s federal lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry. Bradford divestment campaigners argue that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund is putting pensioners’ money at an unacceptable risk by continuing to invest in these, and other, fossil fuel companies.

Deirdre Duff  of Fossil Free West Yorkshire explained that :

‘’The fact that New York City is both divesting of fossil fuels and taking a lawsuit is very significant. Fossil fuel divestment and litigation against the fossil fuel industry have the potential to reinforce each other in generating increased market uncertainty around the future of the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel stocks have been performing badly over the last two years; this is partly due to low oil prices but is also due to the uncertainty created by climate and divestment movements and the signing of the Paris Agreement. New York City’s decision – and the precedent that it sets for other cities –could add further to this uncertainty.’’

Economists, such as Jeffrey Sachs, believe that NYC’s divestment decision could catalyze further divestment commitments and provide momentum inthe shift away from fossil fuels. [3]

Jeffrey Sachs said;

‘‘Pension funds of other major US cities will follow, I think. New York is the neighborhood of the very big money managers. It’s a powerful, personal signal to them that they cannot keep funding the sorts of projects they have in the past.”

The share price of fossil fuel companies assumes that their fossil fuel reserves will be consumed. However expert analysis has found that the industry has around five times more carbon in these reserves then can be burned if warming is to be limited to 2 degrees as agreed by World Governments.

Julie Longden  of Fossil Free West Yorkshire added:

“Although the WYPF took steps towards acknowledging the financial risk associated with fossil fuel investments last year, this has not been matched by action to divest of fossil fuels. Our local councils have a moral responsibility to ensure that local authority pension funds are not fuelling life threatening climate change and a duty to ensure they are safe from the financial risk of stranded assets. New York City’s decision is a catalyst to cities across the world and we hope that Bradford will follow its example as a matter of urgency”.

Climate change is already causing thousands of deaths per year around the world. In West Yorkshire, air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion is also contributing to premature deaths; in Leeds alone air pollution is attributed to almost 700 premature deaths per year. [4]

New York will be the first of the US’s largest cities to divest and is one of group of global cities that have committed to ridding themselves of fossil fuel stocks, including Paris, Berlin, Sydney and Stockholm.

Notes:

  1. New York, New York
    Start spreading the news
    they’re leaving today (tell him friend)
    we want to be a part of it, New York, New York
    Our fossil free hopes, they’re growing each day
    And steps around the heart of it, New York, New York
    we wanna wake up in a city, that’s fossil free, with renewables king of the hill, top of the heap
    our small town blues, they’re melting away
    we’ll make a brand new start of it, thanks to New York
    if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere
    Thanks to you, New York, New York
    New York, New York
    We want to wake up in a city, that’s fossil free…

 

  1. WYPF top investments – https://gofossilfree.org/uk/fuellingthefire/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/11/new-york-city-fossil-fuel-divestment-spur-global-movement
  3. http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/leeds-climathon-produces-winning-solutions-for-air-quality/

 

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