Council to consider ditching fossil fuels

Sarah Carauna, Hornsby Councillor Emma Heyde, Justine Smillie and Estelle Dollfus-Gates celebrate Hornsby Council’s decision to consider divesting.
Sarah Carauna, Hornsby Councillor Emma Heyde, Justine Smillie and Estelle Dollfus-Gates celebrate Hornsby Council’s decision to consider divesting.

How we spend our money is one of our most powerful political decisions. Do you buy the Aussie-grown tomatoes, or the cheap Italian ones? A hybrid, or a diesel vehicle? A $4 tshirt made overseas or a $55 one made in Australia?

Each time we pull out the credit card, we are making value-judgements about what our money will support. And what it won’t be used to support.

I choose to avoid products with palm oil, for example. I also try not to buy products wrapped in huge amounts of plastic. And I’ve moved my money out of the big banks because they lend money to support coal mining and coal seam gas drilling. That’s called divestment.

Estelle Dollfus-Gates who lives in Hornsby with her family is currently divesting by changing banks. She switched her super to a fund without fossil fuels three years ago. She says, “I was reading my previous fund’s statement and saw some information about Russian tar sands. I knew that my fund at the time invested in various fossil fuel projects but reading that it was actually propping up tar sands, one of the dirtiest sources of energy in the world, made me realise that I had to make sure my investments matched what I believed in.

“I moved 100% of my money to an ethical fund. It is good to know that the money in my super is being invested in renewable projects and not in fossil fuels, gambling, live export or weapons. The returns have outperformed other similar investments.”

Sarah Caruana, a university student and pharmaceutical compounder, is also divesting. she says, “Divesting is a relatively easy, low-risk way to shift finances away from dirty fossil fuels. Ultimately this helps the community because the heat waves, drought and bush fires exacerbated by global warming, impact us all.”

So it is sensible that councillors have voted to explore how much of Council’s money is invested in coal and other fossil fuels. We don’t want our rates being used to prop up dying and damaging fossil fuel industries.

Once we know that, we can find investments that are similarly sound and profitable, but are less catastrophic for the climate.

Plenty of residents have taken their savings and superannuation out of fossil fuels, like the Uniting Church, Anglican church and Catholic churches have done. For many Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and other people of faith, investments in fossil fuels are now on a par with arms dealing, tobacco, alcohol and gambling, wage exploitation and pornography

Over 40 councils in Australia have already divested, including Ryde, City of Sydney, City of Melbourne and the ACT government. Hornsby Council’s decision to consider getting its money out of coal and other climate-damaging investments is part of managing Council money in a sensible and responsible way.

APRA, the Reserve Bank and big superannuation funds have all warned about the dangers to the economy of ignoring climate change. Now Council is also considering the risks. And that’s not only good for the environment, it is also sensible money management.

As the world rapidly shifts towards clean energy, we don’t want Council’s money stranded in potentially risky investments. I am delighted councillors will have the chance to weigh those risks and consider less environmentally damaging investment opportunities.

You can email councillors about divestment: councillors@hornsby.nsw.gov.au

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