#DivestfromCrisis: protests take place across the UK

On Friday 24 March, we held our biggest day of action yet, with hundreds of people taking to the streets to urge local authorities, pension funds and financial institutions to take action to simultaneously address the fuel poverty, climate and energy crises by ending fossil fuel investment.

People took part by organising and attending rallies, putting on street theatre and musical performances, contacting their councillors using our new e-action, and on social media using the hashtag #DivestfromCrisis.

Watch the short video below for a snapshot of the day’s events and keep reading for photos of some of the highlights!

More than fifty councils have backed fossil fuel divestment

We also celebrated three supportive council motions passed within the week in Gloucestershire, East Sussex and Dorset, with each offering their support for pensions divestment. This has taken the total number of councils in support to fifty-seven so far!

Councillor Dr Felicity Rice (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council) said “I find it crazy that we have been using residents’ money to invest in fossil fuels.”

Taking action on the UK’s largest pension fund

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – the pension scheme for university staff in the UK – is one of the largest pension schemes in Europe, worth £90 billion. Currently, USS invests over £570 million in fossil fuels companies.

On 24 March, Divest USS hosted an online forum for university staff and students to find out more about USS’s impact on our climate and what can be done to stop it, featuring presentations from Bill Spence (Queen Mary University) lead author of Divest USS’s recent report, Neil Davies (University College London) who is leading the Save Pensions & Planet legal challenge to USS, Nat Gorodnitski from Students Organising for Sustainability, and other USS members active in the campaign.

Actions in pictures

In London, the Climate Choir marched 100 singers through central London to confront big-name asset managers BlackRock and Vanguard, who continue to affirm their commitment to invest in fossil fuel expansion. Click here for a fantastic video of the action!

In Bradford, a collective of community groups, trade unions and climate campaigners gathered together to call on West Yorkshire Pension Fund to listen to its residents (and the five councils that have voted in support!) and finally end fossil fuel investments. (Credit: Karol Wyszynski / John Sargent)

Campaigners in Matlock demonstrated Derbyshire Pension Fund’s choice – oil vs green investments – by enacting a tug of war outside of council offices.

In Bristol, folks braved the weather to draw attention to Brunel Pension Partnerships’ fossil fuel investments and ties to fossil fuel financiers BlackRock.

In Argyll & Bute, councillors received postcards from residents all across the area, calling on them to finally divest from filthy fossil fuels.

Divest East Sussex marched to County Hall to hand in a 5,000-strong petition calling on the council to stop investing in fossil fuels and publicly supporting a proper permanent windfall tax on Big Oil and a rapid transition to a system that provides affordable green energy for everyone.

Activists in Wolverhampton delivered a letter to West Midlands Pension Fund calling on them to divest their £14bn fund from crisis.

Campaigners in Gloucester gathered together to call on Gloucestershire County Council to end its investments in fossil fuels.

More than one hundred people took to the streets in Leicester, despite the wind and rain, to urge Leicestershire Pension Fund to #DivestFromCrisis – with a range of fantastic speakers raising their voices!

Divest Lothian and Friends of the Earth Falkirk took part in a stunning performance on the streets of Edinburgh. Click here for a video recap of the event!

Fossil Free Greater Manchester handed Greater Manchester Pension Fund the award of “Dirtiest Investor” for their massive investments in fossil fuel companies.

Activists in Warwickshire created this fantastic short video with highlights from their day’s events!

In Cumbria, activists polled passers-by about their opinions towards climate change and fossil fuel investments – as you can see, the results are stark!

In Nottingham, in another tug of war between oil, gas, coal and wind, solar and insulation, the green team won and called on Nottinghamshire Pension Fund to divest from crisis.

Divest Tyne & Wear campaigners made it all across the county – from Gateshead to South Shields – calling for councils to take action on Tyne & Wear Pension Fund’s oil and gas investments.

In Brent, North West London, another “tug of war” took place between oil exec and climate solutions!

Following wins from the campaign resulting in huge decreases in fossil fuel investment, activists in West Sussex urged councillors to “divest the rest”.

In Caernarfon, the Welsh dragon joined protests targeting Gwynedd Pension Fund’s millions of pounds of investments in climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

In Glasgow, Divest Strathclyde were joined by the folks at Stop Cambo to deliver a rendition of Grease in George Square and calling on Strathclyde Pension Fund to “shape up”!

In Oxford, campaigners from a range of climate justice groups gathered outside the County Council.

And the list just keeps on going, with more actions taking place in Buckinghamshire, Galashiels, Leeds, and beyond…!

A massive THANK YOU to the wonderful organisers who made these events happen all across the UK. We couldn’t make this campaign happen without your commitment and determination to win.

What’s next?

The vast majority of UK council pensions, banks and investors are still banking on fossil fuels — but it doesn’t have to be like this. By coming together, groups in London, Cardiff and Oxfordshire have all won huge commitments from their councils to end investments in fossil fuels and re-invest in climate solutions.

Local elections are taking place on 4 May in England and 18 May in Northern Ireland. Find out if there are elections taking place near you and how you can get your candidates to commit to support fossil free pensions.

If you’ve been inspired, check out our map to see if there’s a local group near you. If there isn’t, get in touch and we’ll help you start a campaign in your area!