Campaigners from a number of groups including Fossil Free Shropshire and Extinction Rebellion visited Shirehall and HSBC today as part of a global weekend of action to demand a fair and rapid transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy.
Campaigners and organisations across the world are taking action this weekend to coincide with the UN Climate Ambition Summit taking place in New York and to call for an end to fossil fuels.
In Shrewsbury, pension members and other local people gathered outside Shirehall to call on the Pensions Committee to heed warnings from the UN and from scientists to stop financing fossil fuels. An imitation blue heritage plaque was ceremonially presented to the Pension Fund, awarding it the title of: “Leading local contributor to climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss”.
Linda Bromilow from Shrewsbury commented: “It’s now 20 months since the Pensions Committee voted against divesting from fossil fuels. Over this time period, there have been many new alarming scientific reports including findings that the earth is dangerously close to many tipping points. Also over these 20 months, we have witnessed accelerating climate impacts around the world including devastating floods in Pakistan; apocalyptic wildfires in Canada, Greece and Hawaii; heatwaves reaching 40-50°C; prolonged droughts and crop failures. How much worse does it have to get before the Committee acts responsibly in the light of this accelerating emergency?”
During public question time at the Pensions Committee meeting, pension members and other local people put questions to the Committee. Gill Davis from Much Wenlock asked the Committee:
“As world leaders gather at the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York, will the Committee play its part in a transition to a safer, healthier and sustainable world, by raising its ambition and divesting from fossil fuels?”
Another question addressed the Pension Fund’s lack of accountability, especially its decision to abandon holding annual meetings for members.
Dougald Purce, a member of the pension fund, referred to the new report by independent think-tank Carbon Tracker (“Loading the Dice against Pension Funds”) and put the following question to the Committee:
“Carbon Tracker’s new report reveals that many pension funds, including Shropshire, use investment models that predict that global warming of 2°C to 4.3°C will have only a minimal impact on member portfolios, relying on economists’ flawed estimates of damages from climate change. The report underscores that such economic studies cannot be reconciled with warnings from climate scientists that global warming on this scale would be ‘an existential threat to human civilisation.’
“Will the Committee follow Carbon Tracker’s advice to look at the compelling evidence in the climate science literature, and to implement investment strategies which are based on a rapid wind-down of the fossil fuel system, and on a ‘no regrets’ precautionary approach?”
Mr Purce added: “Carbon Tracker’s report concludes that pension funds, including Shropshire, are risking the retirement savings of millions of people by relying on economic research that ignores critical scientific evidence about the financial risks embedded within a warming climate. There is a real risk of a ‘Minsky Moment’ – a sudden, major collapse of asset values.”
Later in the morning, Extinction Rebellion members gathered outside HSBC and handed in a letter to the management demanding that the bank stop funding coal, oil and gas projects and that it commits to not providing funding to the proposed West Cumbria coal mine. 
Gill Davis said: “Today we put a clear message to HSBC: No New Coal. Banks like HSBC need to stand on the right side of history and reject any support for the West Cumbria coal mine. We can’t open any new coal mines and avoid climate breakdown.”
As insurers and banks faced a wave of national protest, Coal Action Network announced that five insurers have given guarantees that they will not provide cover for the planned controversial West Cumbria coal mine.
Andrew Taylor from Coal Action Network said: “The British government has ignored the pressure from people across the UK who are calling for them to stop the climate-wrecking West Cumbria coal mine, so today people have taken to the streets to demand that insurers and banks, including HSBC, turn their backs on this disastrous fossil fuel project. Five insurers stating that they won’t be involved is just the beginning.”