Climate Emergency information
Marrickville Yoga Centre has recently declared a climate emergency. Joining the recent wave of cities, councils, business and other organisations, this acknowledges the current and continued state of climate breakdown globally, signals the Centre’s commitment to taking action on this issue as well as demands climate action from our government.
We are all aware of the devastating impact that the increased production and burning of fossil fuels is having on our planet. Being witness to the current destruction of our environment, people and ecosystems and hearing the predictions of the disasters to come can leave one feeling helpless in the face of such a huge issue. But every single one of us has the power to drive change. The choices we make are important. There are many different actions we can (and need to) take but today I want to speak specifically about divestment.
What is divestment? Divestment is removing your money from investments that are ‘unethical or morally ambiguous’ to enact social change – in this case, the fossil fuel industry. There is a global fossil fuel divestment movement which you can read more about here. The premise is simple: removing money that props up and supports the fossil fuel industry, freezing new investment in fossil fuels and removing fossil fuel companies’ social license to operate. There have been successful divestment movements in the past, the most impactful one being the divestment movement against South African Apartheid. While this was not the only factor leading to the end of apartheid, it made a major contribution.
The same logic can be applied to addressing the climate emergency – divestment from fossil fuels is not and will not be the sole remedy to this complex, global issue, but it will be a major contributing component.
Before we begin, here’s a disclaimer: The information provided is of a general nature only. I am not aware of and so have not taken your personal financial objectives, situation or needs into account when writing out the following. I recommend you seek professional financial advice before making any financial decisions. You will need to do your own research on what is best for you financially. Also, while there is a large amount of public consensus regarding the things I am speaking about, all of the views expressed are my own.
So, how is my money being used to support the fossil fuel industry? Let’s begin with banking. Banks provide critical funding and support for the fossil fuel industry by lending and investing to this industry. The revenue they gain from their customers is invested and loaned to fossil fuel companies for their business operations.
How can you find out if your bank is funding fossil fuels? The Banking on Climate Change Report Card 2019 scores banks worldwide on their support of the fossil fuel industry. You can find out if your bank is invested in fossil fuels through Market Forces‘ bank comparison chart and scorecard. As you’ll see, the Big 4 alone have loaned over $70 billion to the fossil fuel industry since 2008.
Then there is your super fund. Super is one of the biggest investments that most Australians will have in their lifetime. Collectively, Australian’s super is worth $2.9 trillion – this is a huge amount of capital and thus a huge amount of power we can wield. Where your super fund invests your money has a big impact on society today but also for the society we create for future generations.
How can I find out if my fund invests in fossil fuels? Well, this can be difficult as most super funds do not disclose their full investment holdings. Many have no disclosure at all. Have a look at your super fund’s website. Do they disclose all their investments? Do they at least disclose the top 10-20 companies they invest in? If so, you’ll likely find names such as BHP, Rio Tinto, Santos and other major fossil fuel companies as well as CBA, NAB and Westpac who are major funders of this industry.
There are many sustainable super fund options available, though, you must be wary of greenwashing. You can look through the Ethical Advisor Coop ratings of sustainable super fund options available on the market here. As you’ll see, many funds that have a sustainability focus do not completely exclude fossil fuels from their portfolios.
In the spirit of transparency, I want to let you know that I work in the Super industry, specifically at Future Super. Future Super is the investment manager three funds, Future Super, Cruelty Free Super and Verve Super. These three funds are completely divested from fossil fuels. Australian Ethical has divested to a fair degree, though they are still invested in gas through their investment in Infigen Energy, who purchased a $60m Open Cycle Gas Turbine earlier this year. They also continue to invest in NAB and Westpac, which as outlined above are big lenders and investors into the fossil fuel industry.
Knowing where your money is going, you can make a choice to put it somewhere that you know won’t be investing into or propping up the fossil fuel industry. If you do decide to switch, make sure that you get in touch with your current bank or super fund to let them know why. If you are not in a position to divest from your bank or super but still care about this issue, you can get in touch with them and ask them about where your money is going and that you want them to move away from fossil fuels. You can contact both banks and Superfunds through the Market Forces website, either to alert them that you are divesting or to put the pressure on them to stop investing in fossil fuels. Put the pressure on and let them know that these investments are unacceptable.
Jackie is an Ethical Investment Analyst and a Yoga practitioner at Marrickville Yoga centre.