Business Green is reporting that the London Assembly has just passed a motion that calls on Mayor Boris Johnson to begin divesting the city's £4.8 billion (about $7 billion) from fossil fuels. The motion is non-binding, meaning the mayor only has to consider and respond to it, but it's still a significant victory for the divestment movement.
Here's how Business Green explains the significance:
Besides the fact that this will put Mayor Johnson on the spot, it also marks a growing green tint to Britain's other major parties. While it was proposed by a Green Party candidate, it was supported unanimously by Labour and Liberal Democrats. Could it be that the Green Party surge is putting the pressure on? (Conservative members of the assembly were either absent or opposed the motion.)
A spokeswoman for campaigners Divest London said the motion would force the mayor to reveal his position on fossil fuels and reinforce his intention to meet his commitment to reduce London’s carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2025. "This is a really positive step forward and puts pressure on Boris to divest London from fossil fuels. He came into office making big promises on carbon emissions reductions for London and he has been very good at ignoring them. The motion forces him to make clear his position on fossil fuels, and particularly fracking, to the British public," she said.
When I wrote about the fossil fuel industry looking worried, some commenters questioned my focus on divestment. How, the thinking goes, does divestment help end fossil fuel use, if other less green-minded investors are ready and willing to invest in anything that turns a profit?
But with mainstream banks questioning the competitiveness of fossil fuels, and with the Governor of the Bank of England describing most fossil fuels as unburnable, divestment (or at least diversification into clean energy investment) is looking less-and-less like gesture politics, and more like a sound plan to protect ourselves from future shocks.
Let's see if Boris Johnson feels the same way.