Many elders and grandparents are members of private Pension Funds. Concern is being expressed by climate scientists and economists about the fall in the value of shares in fossil-fuels because the majority of known reserves of these will have to be left in the ground if the Earth is to be kept within a relatively safe increase in temperature. A current campaign of Grandparents for a Safe Earth is to ask members of Pension Funds to write to the Chairperson of their fund’s Board about the likelyhood of these investments falling in value. Benefits of this kind of campaign can be seen at the website of Share Action http://shareaction.org/shell-recommends-its-shareholders-support-resolution-climate-change-risk
We are therefore engaging with people about this and asking if they will be willing to send the following letter to the Chairperson of the Board of their Fund:
Address and date
Investment of Pension Funds in Fossil Fuels.
I am a pensioner of (Pension Fund name).
You will be aware that a number of reputable scientists and economists including the former UK Government Chief Scientist Sir David King; Lord Stern, the author of the Stern Report on Climate Change; and staff at the Potsdam Institute, have expressed concern that the majority of the known reserves of fossil fuels will have to be left in the ground if the internationally agreed 2 degree C limit in temperature increase is to be honoured. A potential outcome of this is that investments in fossil fuels will fall in value.
I write to ask if you will let me know the policy of the Board with regard to this information.
NB We do not refer to the climate change dangers of fossil fuels in this letter for two reasons. One is that the primary legal responsibility of the Board of a Pension Fund is to make sound investments on behalf of its members. The other is that that is also likely to be the view of many members of the Fund. However, we give out this template letter in the context of information about Grandparents for a Safe Earth and our concerns about climate change, and encourage those who are willing to do so to respond to the chairperson’s reply with their own concerns.
Bristol’s “Celebrating Age Festival” offers a wide range of information and activities for older people, and for the second year running we hosted a stall there. It included a video showing our July action at a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, photographs of our grandchildren and of our actions, and leaflets about our work. It was an opportunity to engage with a range of ages and especially with grandparents and elders who are concerned about the kind of Earth which our descendants are heading towards.
The Lord Mayor of Bristol expressed his interest in what we are doing, and all of these conversations helped to spread the word and inject more sense of urgency into the actions which are essential if we are to offer a more sustainable life to those who follow us.
Grandparents with photos of grandchildren before going into the Bank
You can see a video of this action on youtube.
On 3rd July, 2014, we went to the RBS branch in Whiteladies Road, Bristol, to ask for answers to questions we had already asked concerning RBS investments in fossil fuels, especially in coal & coal infrastructure. We had not received a satisfactory reply from RBS Head Office to our questions to date.
We wanted to share our concern with customers and staff about the latest forecast by The Royal Society and the US Academy of Sciences which showed a surpassing of a 3.5 degree centigrade increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels, while RBS was still continuing to invest in ecosystem-damaging fossil fuels.
Four of us entered the bank at 4.15pm, whilst another four remained outside distributing leaflets and discussing the issues with passers-by, customers and staff. Those of us based inside the bank were asked to leave, but we refused to go until we received answers to our questions.
The police were called and escorted two of us out of the bank, whilst the other two still refused to leave. The bank had by this time closed to the public and normal bank operations were curtailed. Eventually the remaining two were ejected by the police.
During the action, many passers-by, customers and staff were made aware of the publicly-owned bank’s continued investment in eco-system damaging fossil fuels.
Grandparents for a Safe Earth met Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, on Saturday 1st March. Mr Cable gave us his time on his way into a meeting of Bristol Liberal Democrats. We wanted to connect with him as a grandparent as well as in his role in the Cabinet.
We told him of our concern that extremes of weather associated with Climate Change are occurring world-wide and that this is happening with less than a 1 degree Centigrade increase in temperature. Yet the current policies of world governments regarding CO2 reductions mean that the Earth is heading towards a 3.5 degree C increase. We asked if he was frightened by the effects of human-made Climate Change upon his grandchildren and he said ‘I certainly am’. He was knowledgeable about the science of climate change and when we voiced our concern about the Minister for the Environment being sceptical about its human causes, he acknowledged that Mr Patterson was of the ‘denial persuasion’. Understandably, he wouldn’t be drawn on whether Mr Patterson should be replaced by someone who in our terms ‘recognises reality’, but his obvious concern for his own grandchildren seems to us to imply that that is the case.
He agreed to take part in a grandparents’ photo behind our banner of Grandparents for a Safe Earth and asked us to ‘keep up the good work!’ (In fairness to him, he would have been unaware of our occupations of a couple of banks!).
This is the first time we have had a positive connection with a Government Minister regarding the seriousness and urgency of what is facing the Earth and the human race. It was encouraging for us; we just hope that it may have been encouraging for him too.
On 12th December 2013, we took mulled wine and mince pies to the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Baldwin Street, Bristol, UK to celebrate customers and staff who want the same kind of earth for our descendants as we do.
Many customers and passers-by stopped to discuss our concerns about RBS investments in fossil-fuels and the effects of that upon the planet. About 150 signed a petition seeking the Bank’s commitment to divest from fossil-fuels and to invest instead in research and development regarding renewable energy and energy efficiency. We took mulled wine and mince pies into the bank for staff and engaged them in discussion, especially with regard to their concerns about their own children. The mince pies were accepted but the mulled wine was regarded as being against working rules!
Bank authorities called the police who just could not understand why their time was being taken on a group of old codgers who were giving out mince pies and mulled wine……
Action at offices of Royal Bank of Scotland, Bristol, UK, October 2013
After receiving unsatisfactory answers to our letters, we went to the Bank offices to voice our concern about RBS investments in fossil-fuels and the subsequent damage to the Earth from Climate Change. We were escorted out or removed by the police after 2 hours. We returned to the Bank a week later to leaflet staff about our action and to give them the link to our video: The Grandparents Strike Again.
Why we took this action:
1. The World Energy Outlook 2013 states that ‘taking into account the impact of measures already announced by governments to improve energy efficiency, support renewables, reduce fossil-fuel subsidies and, in some cases, to put a price on carbon, energy-related CO2 emissions still rise by 20% to 2035. This leaves the world on a trajectory consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6 °C, far above the internationally agreed 2 °C target.’
2. Research by Banktrack in 2013 shows RBS as the 8th biggest funder for coal mining in the world (first in the UK) from all the researched banks 2005- mid 2013.
3. Research by the World Development Movement shows that RBS investments in fossil-fuels lead to annual world-wide CO2 emissions equivalent to 1.6 times the total UK annual CO2 emissions.
This was our first action. We went into the Whiteladies Road, Bristol, UK branch of Barclays Bank on 6th March 2013 because we were dissatisfied with the Bank’s written responses to our concerns about its involvement in funding coal infrastructure worldwide.
We took with us leaflets for customers and staff and a letter to the manager to explain why we were doing this. We were escorted out by the police after four and a half hours. You can see a video of this action here.