VINCENT council is cutting investment ties with the fossil fuel industry following a visit from environmental group 350.org.
350.org member and Vincent ratepayer Rachael Bott was joined by a dozen other activists at March’s meeting; “I would prefer my rates are preferences toward banks that do not invest in fossil fuels,” she’d argued.
She quoted the group’s founder Bill McKibben who said “if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage”.
Last week Vincent council’s new policy to preference non-carbon investing banks was voted in.
The council also wants the WA local government association to lobby banks as well.
Ms Bott says letting the banks know is the most powerful aspect of divestment.
“Making sure the banks understand they are losing their social licence to continue investing in new fossil fuel projects,” she says.
She warned the city the big four banks would try to “greenwash” their image as they like to present a social and environmentally conscious front.
“Their actions belie those policies,” she says.
The group takes its name from research suggesting 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the safe upper limit to avoid climatic armageddon. We’re already at 400ppm.
Under the new policy, banks with better “social and environmental” profiles will be preferenced, provided it’s not putting ratepayer money at risk. The banks that have divested from carbon aren’t yahoo two-bit operations either: 350.org’s Perth director Michael Fabiankovits points out Bendigo, Suncorp and Bank of Queensland rank among them. Following the vote $450,000 has already been switched away from banks supporting fossil fuel industries.
The impact on the bottom line could be around $40,000 to $80,000 a year if the council moves from investing in the big four banks, but the risk associated with investing in second and third tier banks was deemed “slight”.
Councillor Jimmy Murphy says “after what feels like a lifetime of debate around climate change it feels great to just get on with it and make meaningful changes, with $450,000 already moved from fossil fuel industry access into more environmentally friendly hands.”
Mr Fabiankovits said Vincent council had gone above and beyond: “We’re very happy with Vincent. They did a very thorough report, one of the most thorough I’ve seen… they voted on it unanimously, they strengthened it with $80,000 [that will go towards further carbon abatement opportunities], they’ve been a very supportive council”.
Mr Fabiankovits, who volunteers in the role, said he got on board with 350.org after travelling and seeing the tangible impacts climate change was happening, from ice shrinkage to krill die-offs.
“I have two grandkids, and I had two more two weeks ago,” he says. “By 2030 they’re going to say to me ‘why didn’t you do something?’
“And I want to say ‘I tried’.”
by DAVID BELL