Dunedin: The First City in New Zealand to Divest

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

The Council voted on Tuesday to remove existing fossil fuel extraction investments of 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.

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This move by the Dunedin City 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, the divestment announcements last September by 5 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 CO2 emissions from New Zealand.

As 350 Aotearoa national Coordinator Ashlee Gross said, “It’s time for Westpac to front up and take responsibility for the impacts of their financing, like Dunedin has today. 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.” said 350 Aotearoa National Coordinator Ashlee Gross.

This growing disquiet locally has in recent weeks been backed by the rapidly growing global divestment movement. Last week, Stanford University announced plans to divest its US $18 billion 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 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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