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Dunedin becomes first NZ city to divest from fossil fuels

Dunedin becomes first city in New Zealand to divest from fossil fuels

Dunedin City Council has become the first council in New Zealand to divest itself of fossil fuel investments to highlight their impact on climate change.

The Council voted on Tuesday to remove existing fossil fuel extraction investments of close to $2 million and prevent future investments in fossil fuels by its $75 million Waripori fund. The move sees Dunedin City join 23 US cities and a Dutch town in divesting from fossil fuels, including oil, gas and coal, for ethical and climate change reasons.

These municipalities are part of a burgeoning divestment movement that include global investors, fund managers, religious institutions and academic institutions that are divesting from fossil fuels, buoyed on by climate change campaigning organisation, 350.org.

“The Dunedin City Council has just demonstrated it is a world leader in addressing climate change. Its vote to end investments in fossil fuel extraction has put New Zealand at the forefront of the divestment movement. Even though New Zealand is a small place, others around the world will take note of this” said 350.org founder and US author, Bill McKibben.

Last week, Stanford University announced plans to divest its US $18 billion endowment fund from coal investments. Two weeks earlier, the world's largest fund manager, BlackRock, announced plans to create a fund that will exclude fossil fuels. Last September, five New Zealand based Anglican Dioceses voted to divest.

In recent months, Westpac has also come under pressure to take steps to divest. Climate campaigning groups 350 Aotearoa - the New Zealand arm of 350.org - and Coal Action Network Aotearoa, are specifically calling on Westpac to halt its funding of Bathhurst Resources, whose planned coal mining project on the Denniston Plateau and surrounds would be one of the largest new contributors to CO2 emissions from New Zealand.

“It’s time for Westpac to front up and take responsibility for the impacts of their financing, like Dunedin has today. Financing oil, coal and gas companies is playing a major role in determining whether these companies go ahead with plans that would push us well past safe CO2 levels, or whether we start to get serious about the transition to clean energy." said 350 Aotearoa National Coordinator Ashlee Gross.

The Dunedin City Council ethical investment policy will formally exclude the munitions, tobacco, fossil fuel extraction, gambling and pornography industries from its investment portfolio.


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