A motion from Cr Jeff Johnson to be tabled at Ballina Shire Council’s meeting this week will ask the council to live up to its promise to act on the climate emergency, and divest from fossil fuel investments.
Cr Johnson will move:
- That Council resolves to stop investing in financial institutions that support the fossil fuel industry.
- That when existing cash term deposits expire they are to be invested in financial institutions with a secure credit rating that doesn’t support or have investments in the fossil fuel industry.
- That Council informs the financial institution when divesting the reason for changing institutions.
Cr Johnson originally moved a similar motion in November 2015, which was supported by a majority of councillors. At that time 57% of council’s investments were with institutions that were considered to be fossil fuel aligned.
Cr Johnson said that council’s investments in dirty energy had actually increased five years later, in November 2020, to 64%, despite the divestment strategy being council policy.
‘I see this as a clear failure particularly given that Ballina Council supported my motion to join at least 71 other local councils in declaring a Climate Emergency in November 2019,’ said Cr Johnson.
‘I understand that Council needs to invest ratepayers money in secure financial institutions and aim for the highest interest rate possible. I also feel that it is long overdue that one of the big four banks divested itself from supporting the fossil fuel industry,’ he said.
‘I’m sure if one of the big banks did this, then they would see a flood of money being injected into them by local councils (worth billions of dollars), large investors and superannuation funds.’
Jeff Johnson noted that Ballina, like all coastal communities, would be significantly impacted by sea level rises and predicted increases in the severity of storms and tidal surge as the climate emergency worsened.
Money talks and money can walk
Cr Johnson said it was alarming to see the expansion of the coal seam gas industry across the country despite widespread opposition from local communities.
‘Money talks and money can walk,’ said Cr Johnson.
‘It’s time that the local government sector played a bigger role in ending the finance for new fossil fuel ventures and did its bit to help Australia become carbon neutral by 2050 or earlier.’
Advance comments on the motion from Ballina Council staff have focused on the difficulties of increasing the percentage invested with non-fossil fuel aligned institutions, ‘primarily due to the fossil fuel aligned institutions being the major banks, who have the superior credit and risk ratings.’
Staff have also noted that council will need to substantially amend the risk parameters in the current Investments Policy to achieve the target of 100% of the investment portfolio being invested in non-fossil fuel aligned institutions.
The divestment issue will be debated at council’s meeting this Thursday.
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