Martin Whitfield has become the latest MSP to join a growing body of political leaders in the Scottish Parliament calling for an end to investment in fossil fuel companies.
The South Scotland MSP is one of 40 serving and former MSPs from different parties who have signed the Divest Scotland pledge which calls for the Scottish Parliament and Government to end investments in fossil fuels. The pledge also asks the MSPs’ Pension Fund to move its assets away from coal, oil and gas companies owing to concerns about climate change.
The call for the Scottish Parliament Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels has cross party support, having been signed by SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs.
The Scottish Parliament Pension Fund’s fossil fuel investments include a stake in Petrobras, a state-owned Brazilian oil and gas company which is drilling “ultra-deep oil reserves” off the coast of Brazil. It also invests in Norwegian oil company, Equinor, which is drilling in the Arctic Circle.
If the trustees of the fund agree to the MSPs’ demands, it will be a powerful symbolic boost for the global movement to divest from fossil fuels, which has now been backed by more than 1500 funds worth over $39.88 trillion.
Martin Whitfield MSP said:
“I was a supporter of divestment when I was East Lothian’s MP and am pleased to add my support to this pledge on the Scottish Government and Parliament divesting from fossil fuels and investing in a just transition to a zero-carbon economy.
“It is crucial that politicians back up warm words and policies on this vital issue with real action to demonstrate that we are serious about tackling the climate emergency. This is one important way that we can show we are helping to make a difference.”
Martin’s pledge comes as constituents across Scotland are urging their local MSPs to show they care about climate change by calling on the Scottish Government and the MSP pension fund to align their investments with the UK’s climate commitments to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Sally Clark, divestment campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:
“With the news that the last seven years have been the hottest on record, it’s vital that MSPs take urgent climate action to shift away from oil and gas. It’s very positive news that 40 MSPs have already pledged to support ending the Scottish Parliament’s investments in fossil fuels.
“We urgently need more MSPs to join them in order to address the worsening climate crisis. Having MSPs pension funds invested in fossil fuel companies creates a clear conflict of interest and could stop them from making the essential decisions that are needed.”
On average, oil and gas companies dedicate only 1-4% of their spending to clean energy projects. Divestment campaigners argue that funding these companies is morally wrong and fatally undermines progress in tackling the climate crisis. Investors have also been warned about the major financial risks to pensions by overvalued fossil fuel assets.
If these MSPs are successful, their pension fund will join the Welsh Parliament, the London Boroughs of Islington and Lambeth and Cardiff Council who have all ended investment in fossil fuel companies. 92 UK universities have also made divestment commitments, including the University of Edinburgh and the University of Aberdeen.