Green councillors in Bristol last night charged Labour and Conservative councillors with ignoring the climate emergency, as they voted to amend a Green Party motion calling for fossil fuel divestment, rendering it ineffective. The Green motion called on the Council to lobby its multibillion pound local pension fund (Avon Pension Fund) to move its investments out of fossil fuels. The motion and debate came at the end of a council meeting in which the Council presented a report on tackling the Climate Emergency.
Responding to Labour’s amendment to the Green Party motion, Cllr Fodor said:
“Four years ago Bristol Labour amended a motion I brought to the council calling for us to pull pension funds out of fossil fuels and removed the call for divestment. Now, at the very same meeting that the Council heard the administration’s plans for the Climate Emergency, Labour have voted with Conservatives to again block action on divestment, amending the Green motion in order to maintain the Pension Fund’s fossil fuel investments and continue with the discredited approach of ‘engagement’ (or ‘having conversations’ with fossil fuel companies).”
“The time for dialogue with fossil fuel companies is so clearly over – these are the companies who have lobbied for increased methane pollution, asked for tax breaks, and plan expanded exploration and production. They claim to do one thing, like stick to the Paris climate agreement, but act the opposite way. Divestment is also backed by UNISON, the council’s largest union, who recognise that if we do not act soon there is a real risk that workers’ pensions will be stuck invested in ‘stranded assets’ as the value of fossil fuel investments falls.”
Greens felt they had no choice but to abstain on their own motion after an amendment by Labour made fundamental changes to it. A statement from Bristol Council’s largest union UNISON had earlier urged councillors to vote for the un-amended Green motion.
Councillor Fodor explained:
“Labour’s amendment removed the ‘Divestment’ from our divestment motion so we cannot vote for the motion as amended – it’s pointless. If Labour and Conservative politicians – including our Mayor – want to talk the talk on the climate emergency then they need to follow through in their actions and not block steps to actually achieve carbon neutrality when it counts.
“Meanwhile Greens will continue to demand the Mayor listens to what his employees in UNISON want – invest in the future economy, not the past, and safeguard the planet for future generations. The Mayor must use the Council’s influence on the Avon Pension Fund to pull investments out of fossil fuels.”
For Councillor Fodor’s motion and the amendment moved by Labour, see attached document. The relevant amended text which supports the council’s current approach of 'engagement' over divestment, is in point 18.