Hackney Council declares a climate emergency - but divest eco-campaigners query £75m fossil fuel investments

The group is calling on Hackney Council to take its pension funds out of fossil fuels

The group is calling on Hackney Council to take its pension funds out of fossil fuels - Credit: Archant

Eco-campaigners have urged Hackney Council to take more drastic steps on global warming, as mayor Phil Glanville declared a climate emergency - despite his administration channelling £75m investment into fossil fuels.

Protesters outside Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Divest Hackney

Protesters outside Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Divest Hackney - Credit: Archant

Phil made the announcement, which will be followed up with an action plan, at a packed town hall meeting on Tuesday night.

Mentioning the alarming wildfires and this week’s heat wave which has seen temperatures top 20 degrees in the midst of winter, he labelled Brexit a “massive distraction” to finding solutions.

“This is the hottest February on record compared to the coldest last year, when we were almost snowed in at the town hall,” he said. “The direct result of global warming is only getting worse.”

He accused Tory councillor Harvey Ozde of “mumbling ‘fake news’” from the other side of the chamber, adding that he would allow him the opportunity to backtrack.

In response, Cllr Odze said: “The Mayor accused me of denying global warming. I defy him to find where I said global warming does not exist.

“What I said is that global warming is not manmade, but a natural phenomenon that has occurred since long before the Industrial Revolution. An ongoing thing that we can do nothing about.”

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Five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, written by a panel of hundreds of climate experts and scientists, concluded, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Mr Glanville said Hackney was “going above and beyond what’s been set out by campaigners” in terms of its policies on climate change and air pollution.

Three campaigners from Divest Hackney - who each asked a question about the council’s pension portfolio at the meeting - all disagree however.

“Why does Hackney continue investing in companies that aggravate climate change and put profits before people,” asked Alistair Binnie-Lubbock, the Green party’s mayoral candidate.

“How can you go carbon-free if you are losing control of that to the investment field?” he added.

In 2017 the council committed to decarbonise its investments by 50pc by 2023 rather than divest from fossil fuel companies, meaning they still have millions invested with companies like BP, Exxon, Rio Tinto and Shell.

Cllr Robert Chapman, chair of the council’s pensions committee, outlined how the council’s fiduciary duty to its pension fund outweighed “political and moral” concerns. He has offered a glimmer of hope to the activists however, as he pointed out the investment strategy is up for review this year.

“Obviously, the situation is much more serious than it was when we took our original position and at this stage nothing is off the table,” he said.

Gabriel Davalos from Hackney Divest believes the council can legally divest.

“Hackney may claim fiduciary duty but Waltham Forest, Southwark, Islington and Lambeth have committed to divest,” he said.

“By not divesting on the ground of fiduciary duty, is Hackney saying that these other boroughs and the 1,000 other institutions that have divested are violating their fiduciary duty?”