Is the writing on the wall for Fossil Fuels?

The writing’s on the wall for fossil fuels. This January there were two big announcements that will make fossil fuel businesses deeply worried.

Firstly, BlackRock, the world’s biggest fund manager, will divest from thermal coal. BlackRock’s boss says the company is committed to putting sustainability at the heart of its investment decisions. He argues that the climate emergency is beginning to change how investors view the long-term prospects of companies, predicting that “In the near future there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

Secondly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will no longer allow foreign aid money to be spent in support of coal mines or coal power plants. At a UK-Africa summit, he said there was “no point” in in the UK reducing the amount of coal it burns if it encourages developing nations to use more of it.

In a sign that the government is beginning to take the climate emergency seriously, he said: “We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky, we all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms.”

What’s bad news for the fossil fuel giants is good news for the renewable and low carbon industries. Investors are increasingly looking at the long-term prospects of companies and asking questions about sustainability in the face of climate change.

This is important because most people have a pension and can tell their pension fund what they do and don’t want their pension pot invested in. ShareAction helps people get their voices heard about the investments made on our behalf.

As fossil fuels become increasingly marginal in our energy mix, ‘decentralised’ energy systems (where power and heat are generated and consumed locally) are taking off. Community energy companies set up and run community-owned projects that generate power which is sold locally. Any surplus profit is ploughed back into the community via a fund which tackles issues from fuel poverty and, carbon reduction to other environmental issues. Local people can invest in these projects, ensuring they truly are owned by – and for the benefit of – the community.

Keynsham Community Energy is our local community energy company. You can find out more about it at www.keynshamcommunityenergy.org.uk

This article was first published in the Keynsham Voice – February 2020

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