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COP21: University fossil fuel divestment doubles ahead of Paris climate talks

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With less than a month before international climate talks begin in Paris, fossil fuel divestment campaigners have today announced that eight new higher education institutions have divested from fossil fuels. This doubles overnight the number of institutions that have divested from the fossil fuel industry on moral and financial grounds, adding a further £69 million to the growing number of university endowment funds which exclude the fossil fuel industry.

Wolfson College (University of Oxford) is the largest of the endowment funds in the latest announcement, with £42 million being divested after policy was passed that excludes investments in ‘companies that derive a majority of their revenue from the exploration, ownership or extraction of thermal coal and oil sands’. This follows a two-year campaign at the University of Oxford supported by 2,500 student and staff, which has seen 68 alumni handing back degrees and others occupying university buildings.

Jeremy Leggett, a Wolfson College alumni who handed back his degree and Chair of SolarAid, said: “Divesting from coal and tar sands is a good start, but it isn’t realistic to think that individual colleges and even universities can engage effectively with oil and gas giants to change behaviour. They should just divest. How incongruous is it to teach young people the science behind global warming’s dire threat to their future, and then invest in two of the main routes to fueling it?”

A further six institutions – Birmingham City University, Cranfield University, Heriot-Watt University, University of Hertfordshire, University of Portsmouth and University of Westminster – now hold their investments in funds that exclude coal and tar sands, following the decision by their fund manager CCLA to divest from coal and tar sands. The CCLA manages investments for charities, religious organisations and the public sector, and is majority owned by the CBF Church of England Investment Fund. Oxford Brookes University went one step further than its older neighbour and these six by divesting its £1.6 million endowment from all fossil fuel companies.

Piers Telemacque, National Union of Students’ Vice President for Society and Citizenship, said: “It’s amazing to see more universities divesting as we build momentum towards the climate talks in Paris. We need to show the sort of moral leadership we want to see from our governments. This is just the latest example of students making change on today’s most pressing social justice issue.”

A million students across the globe are expected to walk out of lessons to take action on 30 November 2015, the first day of the COP21 climate talks in Paris. Students will target the fossil fuel industry, which they claim has spread misinformation about climate change in order to extract profit from the 80% of current fossil fuel reserves that need to stay in the ground. Piers Telemacque went on to say, “I can’t wait to see what we achieve at on the day of action. It’s going to be huge.”

Last week, an open letter was sent to every university Vice Chancellor and Principle in the UK inviting them to divest from the fossil fuel industry, which the letter asserts ‘maintains a powerful grip on the negotiation process’ at the COP21 climate talks. The letter went on to say, “You can listen to our call and divest from fossil fuel companies before COP21 or make the political decision to invest in an industry that has done the most to cause climate change and threaten human life.”

The past 12 months have seen growing concern among British universities about the moral and financial implications of investing in fossil fuels and the ‘carbon bubble’ which threatens the £5.2 billion they collectively invest in the fossil fuel industry.

The eight universities announced today join the University of London SOAS, the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Warwick, Oxford University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Surrey and the University of Bedfordshire. The London School of Economics and Sheffield University are expected to make divestment commitments before talks start in Paris.

Juliette Daigre, Campaigns & Activism Manager at People & Planet, which coordinates the UK university divestment movement, said: “Dumping the fossil fuel industry is starting to go mainstream. The PR machines of the oil, gas and coal sectors are scrambling around trying to sell themselves as clean and sustainable, but people can see through their well-spun web of lies. We urge world leaders to listen to people across the world demanding serious action on climate change rather than an industry gone rogue.”

Globally, more than 400 institutions and 2,000 individuals have pledged to divest $2.6 trillion from fossil fuels.

These commitments include governments and investors from 43 countries and multiple sectors, including pension funds, health, education, philanthropy, faith, entertainment, climate justice and municipalities.

 

Environment

Consumers Investing in Eco-Friendly Cars with the UK Green Revolution

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Eco-Friendly Cars

The UK public appears to be embracing the electric car UK Green Revolution, as recent statistics reveal that more and more consumers are making the switch from petrol and diesel to electric or alternatively fuelled vehicles. The demand for diesel fell by almost a third in October compared to last year, whilst hybrid and electric cars rose by a staggering 36.9%.

Time for UK Green Revolution Change

So, what is the reason for this sudden change? This comes down to the current situation in the UK, which has led to people embracing eco-friendly technologies and automobiles. One of the main reasons is the Government’s clean air plans, which includes the impending 2040 ban on petrol and diesel automobiles. There is then the rollout of the T-Charge in London, the city of Oxford announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel from the city centre by 2020 and various other big announcements which take up a lot of space and time in the UK press.

h2>Diesel’s Reputation

In addition to this, the negative publicity against diesel has had a huge impact on the UK public. This has led to a lot of confusion over emissions, but actually, the newest low emission diesel automobiles will not face restrictions and are not as bad to drive as many believe. Most notably, German brand Volkswagen has been affected due to the emissions scandal in recent times. It was discovered that some emissions controls for VW’s turbocharged direct injection diesel engines were only activated during laboratory testing, so these automobiles were emitting 40 times more NO in real-world driving. As a result of this and all the negative publicity, the manufacturer has made adaptations and amended their vehicles in Europe. Additionally, they have made movements to improve the emissions from their cars, meaning that they are now one of the cleaner manufacturers. Their impressive range includes the Polo, Golf and Up, all of which can be found for affordable prices from places like Unbeatable Car.

The Current Market

The confusion over the Government’s current stance on diesel has clearly had a huge impact on the public. So much so that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to restore stability in the market and encourage the public to invest in the latest low emission automobiles. SMMT believes that this is the fastest and most effective way to address the serious air quality concerns in this country.

Incentives

One way that the Government has encouraged the public to make the switch is by making incentives. Motorists can benefit from a grant when they purchase a new plug-in vehicle, plus there are benefits like no road tax for electric vehicles and no congestion charge. When these are combined with the low running costs, it makes owning an electric automobile an appealing prospect and especially because there are so many great models available and a type to suit every motorist. One of the main reasons holding motorists back is the perceived lack of charging points. However, there are currently over 13,000 up and down the country with this number rapidly increasing each month. It is thought that the amount of charging points will outnumber petrol stations by 2020, so it is easy to see more and more motorists start to invest in electric cars way ahead of the 2040 ban.

It is an interesting time in the UK as people are now embracing the electric car revolution. The Government’s clean air plans seem to have accelerated this revolution, plus the poor publicity that diesel has received has only strengthened the case for making the switch sooner rather than later.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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