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Citing Climate Change, Ethical Reasons, New Zealand Town Divests From Fossil Fuels

Energy

Dunedin is closer to Antarctica than it is to the U.S., but this city in New Zealand today joined 23 U.S. cities and one Dutch town by announcing that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The Dunedin city council voted on Tuesday to remove existing fossil fuel extraction investments—close to $2 million—and prevent future investments in fossil fuels by its $75 million Waripori fund. The move sees Dunedin City become the first New Zealand city to divest from fossil fuels for ethical and climate change reasons.

This move by the council comes at a time when the conservative New Zealand Government, led by Prime Minister John Key, has been pushing desperate plans to expand fossil fuel extraction across New Zealand. Yet this vote, along with the divestment announcements last September by five Anglican Dioceses in New Zealand, and the months of campaigning to halt the Denniston Coal Mine and offshore oil drilling reflect a growing disquiet with the government’s fossil fuel plans.

In recent months the Australian owned bank, Westpac, has also come under pressure to take steps to divest. Climate campaigning groups 350 Aotearoa—the New Zealand arm of 350.org—and Coal Action Network Aotearoa, are specifically calling on Westpac to halt its funding of Bathhurst Resources, whose planned coal mining project on the Denniston Plateau and surrounds would be one of the largest new contributors to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from New Zealand.

“It’s time for Westpac to front up and take responsibility for the impacts of their financing, like Dunedin has today,” said 350 Aotearoa National Coordinator Ashlee Gross. “Financing oil, coal and gas companies is playing a major role in determining whether these companies go ahead with plans that would push us well past safe CO2 levels, or whether we start to get serious about the transition to clean energy.” 

This growing discontent locally has in recent weeks been backed by the rapidly growing global divestment movement. Last week, Stanford University announced plans to divest its $18 billion USD endowment fund from coal investments. Two weeks earlier, the world’s largest fund manager, BlackRock, announced plans to create a fund that will exclude fossil fuels.

The Dunedin city council's ethical investment policy will formally exclude the munitions, tobacco, fossil fuel extraction, gambling and pornography industries from its investment portfolio. With an investment policy like that, it sure makes living in Dunedin more tempting.

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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