Volunteering on ‘London Divests’ – guest blog

25 Mar 2019 jane

This blog is by Freya Brindley Rowell who was on placement with Platform in March. She is about to go to university.

London’s Living Room, in City Hall. Photo: Freya Brindley Rowell

Nervous, anxious and excited were all things I was feeling as I headed to London to volunteer at Platform. As a person that grew up in the countryside, just navigating my way through the underground was cause for me to break into sweat (the blasting heat probably had something to do with it too.)

One thing that really stuck with me the whole time I was at Platform was the sense of community and the importance of staff wellbeing. Alongside this there were clear boundaries of what was appropriate to say or do in certain circumstances. Because Platform runs by consensus and there is no chain of command, anyone can speak up on this. The current media portrayal of “office culture” is very hierarchical and has a focus on individuals, a bit like a school playground, so this non-hierarchical approach has a great dynamic of everyone being an equal, and anything anyone had to say was treated with value.

Prior to my work experience I had expressed an interest in Platform’s campaign on divestment from fossil fuels. During my time on placement, my task was to research my own council, Gwynedd County Council in Wales. I was to look into their pension fund and see how it was being divested. In addition to this they helped me with the tools to contact my councillor and MP to raise the issues of divestment and how important it is in gaining climate justice. I am yet to hear back from either my councillor or my MP, however Gwynedd Council have since acknowledged climate change and the necessary measures that need to be taken if we are to stay within the 1.5 degree limit. Plus I am now part of the Divest Parliament Welsh Regional Team – a group of volunteers within Wales putting pressure on Welsh Councillors and MP’s.

Sakina Sheikh, Platform’s Divest campaigner.    Photo: Freya Brindley Rowell

On the last day of my work experience. I was given the opportunity of attending London’s City Hall, for an event organised by Platform and the Greater London Authority called ‘London Divests – Leading the Global ClimateTransition’. This high profile event was targeted mainly at London councillors. A panel including Platform’s Divest lead campaigner Sakina Sheikh made the arguments for local authority pension divestment. They argued this on climate and racial justice grounds as well as the financial vulnerability of investments in fossil fuel companies. There were break-out discussion groups, and the panel also answered the audience’s questions.

‘London Divests’ was the highlight of my week. It was an amazing experience to see councillors talking productively about what needs to be done to achieve climate justice. In my view climate change has always been something that has been quietly ignored, that recycling is enough to please the nation’s conscience. It was explained at the event that not only was divestment important for moral and climate reasons, it has financial reasoning in that shares in fossil fuel companies are vulnerable. To stay within the 1.5 degree limit, 80% of the fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. The top 200 hydrocarbon companies in the world already have more than 5 times the amount that can be burnt to stay within that limit. The investments into fossil fuel companies could expect a considerable loss when companies can’t access their reserves due to governmental limitations.

This two-pronged argument was explained at the talk, and it really inspired me as a young adult as it is my future and the future of many other young adults across the globe that will be affected greatly by climate change.

I am eternally grateful to the Platform team for welcoming me into their family and showing me their climate activist ways.

Platform says… We loved having you, Freya! 

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