Tonight there’s a meeting at the Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St, on the vital topic of “What Next for Climate Action in Manchester?” Come for 7pm to mingle, panel discussion starts at 7.30pm.
If all the active groups in Manchester were on the panel the meeting would become rather unwieldy. So, other groups that have been active have been asked to give a “blurb”. Here’s the only one received so far, from Fossil-free Greater Manchester, which has a meeting next Thursday, 30th May, at the Greenfish Resource Centre, Oldham St.
1. When was your group founded? What does it do/how does it do it?
Fossil Free Greater Manchester came together as a sub-group of Manchester Friends of the Earth in 2015 to demand that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund divests its holdings in the fossil fuel industry. We campaign on this in various ways, such as lobbying the Fund, meetings with councillors and other stakeholders, creative public actions, awareness raising events and media engagement. We meet every other Monday to share updates on our efforts, plan next actions and pool ideas. Our website is http://fossilfreegm.org.uk/
2. What have been the group’s major successes and failures over the last year or so?
We have made some progress since we started: The Pension Fund has recognised that climate change is a material risk and committed to eventual decarbonisation of its investment portfolio, announcing the first steps by shifting 10% of its holdings to a “low carbon fund”.
They have sold their shares in Schlumberger the company that Cuadrilla contracted to conduct fracking at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire.
We have demonstrated strong support for divestment, from the public, with 5,000 signatures on our petition that we handed in to the Fund and support from many Greater Manchester councillors and from nine of the local MPs.
The call for divestment is supported by the main climate campaigning organisations in the city-region, as demonstrated by our joint statement calling on Greater Manchester to do more, faster, to cut its carbon emissions.
However, we have yet to persuade the Fund to divest all its holdings in the fossil fuel firms that continue to explore, extract and sell as many climate damaging fossil fuels as they can. Moreover, it was four years ago that we called on the Fund to divest its fossil fuel holding over a 5-year timescale. Those years have been wasted really, with the Fund trying to persuade the fossil firms to do good, but with little or nothing to show for it.
So we have updated what we are asking of the Fund:
“In response to the climate emergency, we are calling upon the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to:
1. Make the fund fossil free within the next 2 years.
2. Immediately move all investments out of the most polluting fossil fuels (coal, tar sands & fracking).
3. Develop a strategy to invest in local climate solutions in Greater Manchester.”
3. If people got involved in your group, what sorts of things would they find themselves doing?
Bring your ideas and put them into action! We try to work strategically, thinking about who we need to influence and how, networking and building support for the campaign within government, inside the pension fund and with Manchester residents more widely.
4. What has your group got planned between now and the end of September (and how might it contribute to maintaining morale and momentum in the climate movement in Manchester)
Our main focus currently is the Pension Fund‘s AGM in July. Join us in making a noise and telling the Pension Fund enough is enough. Pension fund divestment is not radical (other local authorities have already divested) but it is critical. It is a very concrete way that the Greater Manchester Authority can demonstrate that it actually is committed to going carbon neutral. A timebound agreement to divest would be an encouraging sign for other climate campaign groups and add weight to the promises that were made at the Green Summit.
5. What would you like to see the “climate movement in Manchester” do more generally, both to maintain morale and momentum, but also to increase its effectiveness?
Let’s work together on specific opportunities to influence decision-makers, combining our different approaches to campaign, share our skills and networks and have a strong coherent message that we need more change, faster.
Thanks very much