Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) staged a protest today [Friday 25 February] outside Devon County Hall in Exeter to highlight the county council’s continued investment in fossil fuels through its pension fund.
XR rebels scaled scaffolding above the entrance to County Hall and lowered a huge banner emblazoned with “Stop Funding Fossil Fuels”. The action coincided with a meeting of the council’s pension committee. Below the banner, a samba band played and onlookers were treated to XR dancers performing ballroom dancing – “The Burning Ballroom”.
Three years after declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency, Devon County Council’s Pension Fund still has over £100million invested in fossil fuels. Studies carried out by UK Divest show the council has money via various funds in companies such as Shell and BP.
Emma-Rose Goodwin, speaking for XR said,
“We are in a climate and ecological emergency. But Devon County Council is simply not acting with urgency to stop its funding of fossil fuel companies. But the council won’t be able to ignore us today. With our masked ballroom dancers and people with banners, flags and placards, we guarantee to turn heads and draw attention to this important issue.”.
Last September Devon County Council (DCC) agreed to move some of its remaining passive investments in fossil fuels into ‘Paris aligned’ funds, but this is far from full divestment. And last November the DCC Pension & Investment Fund Committee completely watered down a motion on full divestment brought by Green Party Councillor Jacqi Hodgson
“DCC are taking us down a road to climate and ecological collapse, when instead they could be taking a route to a better future for us all.
“The council are lagging behind other pension funds that are part of the Brunel Pension Partnership which have taken steps to divest significantly more of their pension holdings, including the Oxford Pension Fund and the Environment Agency Pension Fund.
“And while the Council have asserted that immediate divestment is “not currently practical” one of the world’s largest pension funds, ABP, recently announced they would do just this, by 2023.
“DCC are letting down the communities they serve by not doing everything they can to avert the climate crisis, and we’re tired of listening to their excuses. They need to act now. The International Energy Agency said last May there was no place for new fossil fuel projects if we want to reach net zero.”
This protest is part of two days of XR actions in Devon. Tomorrow [Saturday 26] activists will be in Plymouth and Barnstaple.
In Plymouth there will be a silent symbolic funeral procession through the city centre to Barclays bank. The event starts at 10:30 at the Law Courts (10 Armada Way). This is part of a “Better Without Barclays” campaign, a UK-wide movement calling out the investments that Barclays make into the fossil fuel industry.
In Barnstaple campaigners will ‘clean up’ Barclays, and engage with the public in the High Street. Barclays is not the only bank still backing fossil fuels but it only just falls behind the major US offenders and is certainly the worst in Europe
Sian Aubrey, Plymouth XR said,
“While the climate and nature crisis escalates, Barclays reward themselves for their supposed “ethical spending”, But the truth is that they have increased their investments into fossil fuels at an alarming rate year-on-year and now invest twice as much as they did in 2018. They have used the pandemic as a distraction to increase their profits by neglecting their ethical responsibilities.”
Barclays also funds Drax, the UK’s single largest carbon emitter and the world’s largest burner of trees. Biofuel Watch has proven that these trees are being cut down at unsustainable rates and that no country is taking responsibility for the carbon emissions created.
Tim Ponton, Totnes XR said,
“People are mostly unaware that the money they have with banks is likely to be part of multi-billion-pound loans to companies that are not only responsible for creating the climate crisis, but are also responsible for the huge energy price hikes we are hearing about in the news. We are asking people to check their own bank at https://switchit.green/ . Switching banks is very easy.
“The government says it cares about the climate, yet HMRC uses Barclays to process its payments and the government continues investment in fossil fuels. Our taxes are being used to fund new oil and gas expansion that will stop us from meeting the agreed targets on climate change. It is madness but it will only stop if people speak out.’
The protests are part of XR’s three demands regarding fossil fuels:
- No new fossil fuel investments
- No new fossil fuel licences
- End fossil fuel subsidies now
For more info on Extinction Rebellion visit https://extinctionrebellion.uk/
XR Exeter https://extinctionrebellionexeter.org/,
XR Plymouth https://www.facebook.com/xrplymouth/
XR North Devon https://www.facebook.com/XRNorthDevon
XR Totnes https://xrta.org.uk/