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Scottish local government pensions invest £1.7 bn in fossil fuels

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New data published in the Sunday Herald yesterday revealed that Scottish local authority pensions have an astonishing £1.7 billion invested in fossil fuel companies, such as Shell and BP. Before today it was not known the extent to which the funds, held by Scotland’s 11 Local Government Pension Schemes on behalf of council workers and related organisations, were exposed to the “carbon bubble”.

The research, carried out by Friends of the Earth Scotland, volunteers and partners (350.org, Platform and Move Your Money) shows that:

– The £1,664 million (£1.7 bn) invested in fossil fuels represents 5.2% of the total value of the funds.

– This represents £311 per Scottish resident, invested in coal, oil and gas by local government.

– Money is invested into multinational fossil fuel companies including £56 million in Rio Tinto, £39 million in BP and £31 million in Shell.

– Strathclyde Pension Fund came top in Scotland and second largest in the whole of the UK, with £752 million invested in fossil fuels.

– Of the six pension funds investigated by the Sunday Herald in 2014 the total value invested of fossil-fuels has increased by £300 million to £1.4 billion.

The news comes at a time when fossil fuel investments have been falling in value, posing both financial and environmental risks to funds. Campaigners are calling for funds to invest in line with a scientific evidence that shows that 80% of fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. Action on climate change will leave fossil fuel investments worthless, creating a carbon bubble which would be deeply damaging to any funds exposed to them.

Scottish organisations such as the United Reform Church, University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow have already made moved to quit investing in fossil fuels, joining 389 institutions globally that have committed to divest.

Pensions can be invested sustainably.  In February the Strathclyde Pension Fund announced a £10 million investment in smaller-scale renewables and in 2014 the Falkirk fund invested £30 million in social housing.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns at UNISON Scotland has supported the Fossil Free campaign said: “Local authorities have a duty to cut carbon emissions under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. This, together with the growing financial risk, is a major factor Scottish local authority pension funds need to consider when making investments in the fossil fuel and similar industries. Divesting from fossil fuels is the prudent way for councils to meet both their fiduciary duty to members and their public law duties.”

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, has asked questions in the Scottish Parliament about fossil fuel investment. She said: “Pension schemes are supposed to provide security for workers when they retire. At the moment, our local authorities are playing reckless games with their employees’ money, and it’s time the Scottish Government took more action on this issue. Oil, gas and coal are running out, and the fossil fuel industry is no longer a sustainable, sensible investment choice. Scottish Ministers and public sector pension schemes should urge local government to ask their members how they want their pensions to be invested.”

Cllr Jim Orr, Edinburgh City Council Pensions Committee said: “There is a growing recognition that pensions and other long term investments often support patterns of unsustainable and hugely damaging fossil fuel consumption. What we need is for more stakeholders, particularly individual pension scheme members, to make their voices heard so that there is pressure for investment strategies to reflect their wishes.”

Maggie Anderson, Lothian Pension Fund member said: “The only thing that makes sense is to invest in renewables. We need to look to the future, not kill it by persisting with what belongs in the past. That’s what I would hope for from my pension fund, especially in Scotland which has so many natural resources of renewable energy.”

Kirsty Noble, Strathclyde Pension Fund member said: “Local governments and their pension funds really have to take the lead in action to avert climate change – whatever the rest of us do individually is small in comparison with the potential for government action. Given the growing understanding of the need to ‘keep it in the ground’ these investments are increasingly risky and the local authority funds seem to be overexposed to this risk.”

Ric Lander, FoE Scotland campaigner for Fossil Free pensions said: Communities around the world are calling for an end the environmental destruction that comes with coal mining, fracking and deep-sea oil. Our pension money shouldn’t be fuelling this damage: at time when public resources are being squeezed, we should be redirecting this money to socially useful projects such housing and clean energy. Across Scotland people from churches, unions, universities and community groups are asking why so much of their money is invested with so little accountability.  Funds should listen to their members and make a shift away from dirty energy and towards clean and safe investments.”

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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