Divestment campaign spreads to New Zealand

Dunedin becomes first city in New Zealand to stop investing in fossil fuels

Pic: Chris Zielecki/Flickr

Pic: Chris Zielecki/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

A New Zealand city has divested from fossil fuels, in a sign that the movement is growing beyond its American borders.

Dunedin Council announced that it would remove investments of almost NZ$ 2million from the fossil fuel industry, and would no longer use its NZ$ 75 million fund for these types of investment in the future.

The divestment movement, which encourages institutions to remove their funds from the fossil fuel industry on ethical grounds, has spread rapidly through the US since it was launched in the autumn of 2012.

Since then, 23 US cities and one Dutch town have committed to divest, alongside numerous universities and religious institutions. In New Zealand, five Anglican dioceses have already pledged to abandon their fossil fuel investments, although Dunedin is the first city.

“It’s so fitting that on the day scientists showed with great clarity the peril of the Antarctic, nearby Dunedin took this huge leadership step. It’s not just the most charming city in New Zealand, it’s the most forward-looking!” said Bill McKibben, the founder of 350, the campaign group leading the movement.

Scientists warned this week that the collapse of the West Antarctic glaciers now appears to be inevitable, with serious consequences for low-lying communities around the world at risk of sea level rise. This is just one of the impacts that climate change will have, driven by the continued burning of fossil fuels.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has been likened to the historical shunning of other unethical industries, including South Africa during the apartheid.  As well as fossil fuels, Dunedin’s ethical investment policy also excludes munitions, tobacco, gambling and pornography.

Campaigners also argue that continued investments in fossil fuels poses a financial risk, as the possibility of future regulations of the industry means the reserves on which the companies are banking could become unrecoverable and therefore worthless.

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