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Bristol MPs call for pension fund to go fossil free

On the eve of an international summit on climate finance, Darren Jones, Kerry McCarthy, Thangam Debbonaire  and Karin Smith join over 100 MPs to call on the Parliamentary Pension Fund to drop investments in oil, coal and gas companies.

The four Bristol Labour MPs are among a cross-party group of over 100 MPs (1) who demand that their £612 million MPs’ Pension Fund removes its substantial holdings from fossil fuel companies to reflect their concerns about climate change. The fund currently holds a £5.6 million stake in BP and £4.9 million in Shell.

 

This week, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell became the 99th and 100th MPs to sign the Divest Parliament pledge (2). This milestone comes as 50 heads of state, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May, arrive in Paris for an international summit on climate change and finance.

MPs are responding to a rising call for divestment, with over 800 organisations and investors worth over $5 trillion having already committed to divest from fossil fuels (3).

In a joint statement, Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, and the other MPs said:

“Two years on from the Paris agreement, and with the devastating impacts of climate change already apparent, there is no room for continued investment in companies whose business is incompatible with our climate obligations. It is vital that MPs show leadership on positive solutions to tackle climate change which benefit society and our constituents. We are therefore proud to support the call for our pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.”

Patrick Killoran  from the Divest Parliament campaign said:

‘ I’m deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change here and around the world. It’s great to see MPs listening to their constituents and showing political leadership on climate action.

Investing in companies such as BP and Shell, who continue to dig for more fossil fuels and lobby against climate policy to line executives’ pockets, is dangerous and wrong.

I hope more MPs will join those committing to Divest Parliament today, and prioritise concrete action to build a clean, fair energy system for all.”

Two years ago this week, the UK government joined nearly 200 nations in signing the Paris Agreement on climate change. To meet the commitment to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C, with the aspirational target of 1.5°C, scientists have warned the vast majority of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground.

Yet, the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) continues to invest millions of pounds of MPs’ savings in fossil fuel companies. Both BP and Shell are among the fund’s top 20 holdings – along with mining firm Rio Tinto, British American Tobacco and Amazon -which were made available for the first time in March 2017. The pension fund has to date been unwilling to make public the full list of its investments.

With the value of fossil fuel companies’ stock based on their entire fossil fuel reserves–not just the small percentage that can safely be burned–these investments are not only environmentally destructive, but represent a significant financial risk. Meanwhile, the industry continues to funnel billions every year to find and develop yet more fossil fuel reserves. Both BP and Shell have been involved in lobbying against climate solutions, and BP was identified at the top of a list of firms obstructing climate action in Europe (4).

The 100 pledges follow the efforts of thousands of citizens across the UK, who have written to and met with MPs from the across the political spectrum, urging them to demonstrate their commitment to protecting our society and shared environment from the risks associated with burning and investing in fossil fuels.

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MP visits annual Foodbank collection in Horfield

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones dropped-in to support volunteers and those donating at last weekend’s (2nd December) annual Foodbank #everycancounts collection.

Darren said:

“I stopped by North Bristol Foodbank’s annual collection in Tesco on Golden Hill in Horfield and it was heart-warming to see the generosity of shoppers and volunteers – over 2522kgs of donations were collected in three days. Whilst at the store, I met some of the Foodbank management and trustee team as well as new and experienced volunteers to find out more about the Foodbank’s work. Whilst I would prefer we lived in a country that did not require foodbanks, sadly more and more people are reliant upon them each year so it is good to see so many people supporting those in need”.

To find out more about North Bristol Foodbank please visit: https://northbristol.foodbank.org.uk/

Darren responds to Autumn budget

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has expressed his disappointment that the budget today has failed to solve some of the key issues facing our country.

Darren said:

This budget fails to solve the issue of core schools funding, highlights the increasing costs of this Brexit shambles and fails to meet the needs of Bristol.

“£2.5bn has been cut from the schools budget since 2015, but now the Government has to find an additional £3bn to cover the costs of Brexit. Parents are being asked to help cover the stationary costs at their local schools whilst the Government fails to put any additional money into the core schools budget.

“Bristol has been largely ignored. We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the country but our infrastructure is creaking: we need new inner city rail, better buses, more affordable homes and real investment to help skill our people for the jobs of the future, whilst protecting our police service and the environment.

“Finally, we must all be concerned with the sound bites that have been offered by the Chancellor to cover up the real economic news today: increased inflation, increased debt and the increasing cost of Brexit.

 

On Transport

“I welcome the commitment to give £80m to our Metro Mayor. But this is far from what is needed to fund the real upgrades to transport that we need to see. I’ll be writing to the Metro Mayor to continue to make the case for funding for inner city rail, better bus routes and for projects that will prevent gridlock in North Bristol due to massive developments across the North Bristol arch.

 

On Housing

“I welcome the Stamp Duty cut for first time buyers. But it’s clear the broken housing market needs more affordable and council houses to be built in the first place. For many of my constituents, the idea that cutting Stamp Duty whilst still requiring them to have a £15,000-£30,000 deposit is laughable. I look to my colleagues at Bristol City Council to see whether the Chancellor’s pledge to lift the spending restrictions on council’s for house building will help Bristol or not. But we must also be careful of the catchy Stamp Duty headline: the Office for Budget responsibility has said that cutting stamp duty will have the ‘consequence of… increasing house prices’. This is not what young people looking to buy a house want to hear.

“The Chancellor also failed to address the issue of inflation on rent and mortgage payments. I have been in correspondence with the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, about the impact on my constituents from increases in the base rate. He has made it clear: Brexit is increasing costs, which means the Bank has to increase the base rate, which means people’s mortgages go up. Inflation continues to rise under this budget, and I will continue to lobby the Government to ensure that families with mortgages don’t find themselves unable to pay their mortgages due to Brexit.

“And whilst I welcome the changes to Universal Credit, including for housing benefit support, the Chancellor failed to answer the question of whether these emergency funds are loans or not. Today, they are. For constituents who get left with no support at all through no fault of their own, these emergency funds should be part of the Universal Credit and not given as loans which many struggle to repay.

 

On Healthcare

“This budget has failed to deal with the social care crisis and goes nowhere near what the CEO of the NHS has said is needed to keep hospitals like Southmead Hospital meeting the needs of patients. This budget has also failed to acknowledge to the gaps in the NHS workforce, and I am shocked that there has been nothing to address the declining number of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners who – in the result of a hard Brexit – may leave the workforce, leaving the NHS understaffed and unprepared for the foreseeable future.

 

On Policing

“Avon & Somerset Police has suffered from significant cuts since 2010, and continue to be forced to make more. I recently presented the “Tipping Point” report to the Policing Minister, which made it clear that the police are at breaking point. And following recent meetings with concerned residents in different parts of Bristol North West – including in Southmead – the sad truth is that the Government has failed to give any additional funds to the police to allow them to do their jobs properly.

 

Other Areas

“I am disappointed with the the lack of investment in the renewable energy sector. The Government – ignoring the concerns of a great number of people in Bristol – has failed to take advantage of the reducing cost of renewable energy and has instead opted to give the oil and gas industry a tax cut.

“And whilst funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure is welcome, it fails to understand that local councils don’t have the staff to install the charging points the Government is giving councils the money for; it offers no upgrades to the wider electricity grid needed to ensure our energy systems can meet the needs of  new electric vehicles; and it doesn’t mention once how the Government will help people who lose their jobs from automated electric vehicles get into new work.”