The Post-Carbon Economy

This post is a guest entry courtesy of the Ethical Consumer. You can read some of our past blog posts on our attempts to shop more ethically here.

Ethical Consumer co-editor Tim Hunt says leave behind the carbon age and become a pioneer in the fast developing post-carbon economy.

We’re seeing a shift. It isn’t yet seismic, but there is movement. A movement and it’s quickly gathering momentum.

That is to say that the carbon divestment movement, while still in its infancy, is having an impact in the UK and across the world.

In April 2014, Archbishop Desmond Tutu added momentum to a call for people to ‘divest from carbon’ – or in other words to pull investments out of the oil, coal and gas sector.
“It makes no sense,” he said “to invest in companies that undermine our future. We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet”.

His intervention was an important moment. It gave clarity, impetus and voice to a fledgling idea, and fresh impetus to a new and vital political movement.

Since this time the carbon divestment movement has grown and grown.

Billions of pounds worth of shares in carbon intensive industries have been unceremoniously dumped by a raft of institutions from pension funds to universities, with a key role played by campaign group

To date, the focus of campaigners has largely been on lobbying large institutions to divest from fossil fuels. Ethical Consumer is now adding to this wider divestment campaign by bringing you a ‘Guide to Personal Carbon Divestment’.


The power is in our hands

Ethical Consumer is asking individuals to take up the challenge of divesting their own personal finances.

While we still need to burn fossil fuels to stay warm or to travel across the country, it is not inconsistent to say that we are now at a point where the financing of new oil wells, new coal mines and new fracking sites needs to stop.

Most people in Britain do not directly own shares but almost all of us have bank accounts.

A significant amount of finance for new fossil fuel extraction comes from our own banking sector, and campaigners around the world are beginning to measure and compare involvement and to name and shame the worst offenders.

Move Your Money’s work on this has been a really valuable contribution and has provided a launch pad and the inspiration for Ethical Consumer’s new guide. For instance in 2014 their work profiled just how much the big banks pour into fossil fuels – £66 billion in 2012 alone.

In our new guide we present the best options for leaving behind the carbon age and becoming pioneers in the fast developing post carbon economy.

There are many ways for individuals to make an immediate impact.

Our campaign focuses on switching your current accounts, savings accounts, cash ISAs and investment funds away from companies still funding fossil fuel projects.

The good news is that ditching the banks who plough the most capital into the fossil fuel industry has never been easier.

For those looking to switch a savings account there are also a number of new banks that actively invest in renewables, making the impact of switching particularly effective.

In addition direct investments and crowd funded projects offer interesting, if more risky, options.


Clean energy investment

The transition away from a fossil-fuel economy requires not just divestment from carbon but also much investment in new renewables capacity. In a way this makes the new divestment movement a bit more complex than those around tobacco and South Africa in the past.

This theme is reflected in our new divestment campaign and marks the beginning of a shift in thinking in the personal finance sector. The ethically safe havens of a traditional building society are beginning to look less good when faced with the question ‘who will finance new renewable capacity?’

The real innovators like Triodos, the Ecology Building Society and, to some extent, the Co-operative Bank, are looking well placed in this brave new world.

So if you’re concerned by the threat of climate change then join the carbon divestment movement and move your personal finances out of those involved in climate-wrecking industries.


Find out more about divesting your personal finances on the Ethical Consumer website.


For regular readers of Practically Ethics, let us know what practical steps you’re taking to reduce your carbon footprint?

How do you decide between lobbying, changing your consumption habits and carbon offsetting for example?

Post your thoughts in the comments.

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