In May 2016, our group formed to start a project with a different focus. We did not believe that Peterborough, as an aspiring Environment Capital, should be investing in fossil fuels in any capacity. And, as Peterborough in Transition aims to develop sustainable ways of living, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we decided to start a local divestment campaign. For those who have not heard this term before, divestment is taking money away from existing investment funds, usually to raise awareness of and stigmatise an unethical industry or a social injustice, and weaken its power and influence. Previous examples of this include the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa and campaigns against tobacco advertising.
At the beginning of our campaign, we looked at where Peterborough City Council invests in fossil fuels, and found that most of their investments were connected to the Cambridgeshire Pension Fund, which encompasses the pensions for council workers across the whole of the county. These investments currently total over £100,000,000 in direct and indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry. We then contacted 350.org, a global campaign organisation devoted to the divestment movement, who put us in touch with Fossil Free Cambridgeshire. We later joined their monthly meetings, and now collaborate our efforts in one campaign.
Before we joined with Fossil Free Cambridgeshire, they had already had a small win, getting Cambridge City Council to commit to divestment as a city and to put a motion to the County to divest from fossil fuels. We have called on Peterborough City Council to do the same, and discussions are ongoing. As a collective, we are also targeting the Pension Fund Committee, who hold the power to divest, and relevant unions, as they have representatives who sit on the committee.
If you would like to get involved, please come along to one of our meetings or make contact with us via email or social media. If you are a pension fund member (i.e. council employee), you can also contact the pension fund committee directly to call on them to divest – it is your pension after all. As a council employee, you can also contact your union representative, asking for their help and support in this campaign.
There are also other ways to get involved in the divestment campaign. If you are connected to a faith organisation or educational institution, there is a possibility they have investments in the fossil fuel industry, and there are campaign groups which deal with the specifics of these organisations. For example, People and Planet focus on educational institutions and Bright Now focus on churches. For more details of the different groups involved, 350.org is the movement’s umbrella organisation, and will help direct you to the best group for your focus.