Hackney Council as the climate vanguard – or is it just a laggard?

24 Jan 2017 admin

Hackney Council is voting tonight on its investment policy regarding fossil fuels and climate change. After years of campaigning by Divest Hackney and lots of media attention, this Tuesday is the big day for the Pensions Committee. But despite the hype and the repeated delays, the proposals are pretty disappointing.

Hackney Council has £42 million in fossil fuel shares in 22 companies including Exxon and Shell. We met with them last Thursday to discuss their new draft investment strategy.

Council staff are very proud of their plan. They claimed that they are “the most ambitious in London. We’re the only one that’s come out with a target. We’re at the vanguard with this.” 

 Which is odd, as Hackney is planning to :

 Reduce the Fund’s relative exposure to future emissions from fossil fuel reserves (measured in MtCO2e – million tonnes of CO2 emissions) by 50% over 2 valuation cycles (6 years) 

That means they’re going to shrink their fossil fuel investments by 50% – measured in CO2 emissions from reserves.

So instead of divesting from 100% of its fossil fuel investments – like Waltham Forest have committed to over next 5 years – Hackney is divesting 50% over 6 years. That’s a step in the right direction – but it’s too little, too late – and definitely not leading in the vanguard!

When pressed on where the 50% target came from, Hackney Council admitted that it wasn’t connected to any scientific measures. It’s weaker than we need to meet the Paris targets of either 1.5 C or 2C warming.

But they’re decarbonising right? Isn’t that even better than divesting?

Hackney Council has talked a lot about decarbonising, and reducing their exposure to carbon-intensive sectors other than fossil fuel extraction. Like power generation, agriculture, steel.
But in the end – they’ve decided to focus only on shares that have fossil fuel reserves. In our meeting, Hackney stated that they’ve stepped away from decarbonisation.

This means their target is directly comparable to Waltham Forests. The metric used is slightly different – Hackney are cutting 50% of their fossil fuel investments, measured by the future CO2 emissions from current reserves. Whereas Waltham Forest is cutting 100% of its fossil fuel holdings.


But didn’t Hackney do thorough assessments of their carbon exposure?

Yes – and credit to Hackney Council for this. When pressure from campaigners grew, Hackney Council brought in Trucost to do an analysis of the climate risk in their portfolio. Trucost scoped out Hackney’s investments and examined where the risks from climate change lay.

It’s great that Hackney Council has examined and debated the issue.

But when it came to action – the decision made was pretty weak.

It’s taken a long time to get here, with delay after delay. And when you hype what you’re doing and claim leadership, there’s a risk it starts to sound like greenwash.

Hackney says it’s the vanguard on the pensions and climate – but there’s a risk they’re turning into a laggard.




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