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Another attack on local democracy?

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NEW - Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/18/uk-councils-warned-of-severe-penalties-of-fossil-fuel-divestment


Divestment campaigners are worried that the government's current consultation on local authority pensions investment contains a significant attack on local democracy and ethical investment.

The main purpose of the proposed new rules will be to require local authorities to be more cost-effective by pooling their pension funds in larger groupings. But within the consultation are explicit restrictions on local authority ethical investment decisions. The main intent appears to be preventing boycotts of companies operating within the illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Divestment from the UK arms industry would also be forbidden: "using pensions and procurement policies to pursue boycotts, divestments and sanctions against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate" (Research in 2007 revealed local council pension funds to have over £300 million invested in BAE alone).

It is acknowledged that local authorities may have regard to "environmental, social and corporate governance matters". But when the government is seeking to restrict local authorities' investment choices to prevent disinvestment in some areas, it is hard to be confident that restrictions on fossil fuel divestment will not follow within guidance (as yet unpublished). If local authorities have to stick to central government policy and invest in UK arms companies, will government be any keener to allow them to divest from fracking? New regulations would give the Secretary of State the power to intervene if a local authority is deemed not to be following government guidance.

Solidarity with the Heathrow 13

The 'Heathrow 13' who blocked the north runway at Heathrow in July 2015 to protest against the climate folly of a third runway have been told they are likely to face prison, because of the 'astronomical cost' of their actions - 25 flights cancelled. And yet the aviation sector continues to get off scott-free despite the astronomical cost of its own contribution to climate change.

Protest has shaped the debate but Paris didn't save the planet

The climate deal agreed by world leaders in Paris this week is being heralded as a historic deal which has set the world on track to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

This is by no means what has happened. 
 
What is true is that world leaders have been under pressure from a growing global climate movement and community of scientists who have successfully raised awareness of both the issue and the need for serious and urgent action. 
 
To some extent whatever positives there are in the agreement are a reflection of this pressure. The headline grabbing desire "to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees" reflects the campaigning of many in the poorest parts of the world that have rightly argued that 2 degrees warming seals their fate. For many years their campaigning slogan has been 1.5 to stay alive! 
 
It's important that we recognise the impact of protest and pressure on the talks. However there will be and should be no complacency from the movement in the wake of the Paris agreement. 
 
The deal is historic only in so far as it underlines what the movement has been arguing for years. That there is an urgent and real threat to the climate which will have catastrophic consequences. 
 
But that threat still remains because the Paris talks have done absolutely nothing to prevent it or begin to tackle it. 
 

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