A new campaign to fight climate change will launch in Fermanagh because there is “a very strong presence of environmentalism and climate action” here.

Fossil Free Northern Ireland is a Friends of the Earth initiative that aims to take the use of fossil fuels out of Northern Ireland’s economy, society and environment. To do this, the movement will oversee a number of campaigns targeted at delivering major change in key sectors in Northern Ireland.

The first of these campaigns will ask local Councillors to call on the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC) – which manages a £5 billion pension fund in Northern Ireland – to divest the £350 million of pensions which are currently invested in fossil fuel companies.

Niall Bakewell is Friends of the Earth’s Northern Ireland Network Developer. He said: “Northern Ireland is significantly behind most of the rest of Europe in tackling our contribution to climate change.

“Every other jurisdiction in the UK and the Republic of Ireland has mandatory annual targets for reducing its emissions, but we have failed to set our own for nearly a decade.

“In the absence of any government or decision-maker we need to find other ways to deliver on our moral duty to help avoid catastrophic climate change.

“If we can get together and persuade this pension fund to get its money out of planet-trashing fossil fuels, we can do one major thing to contribute to the movement to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees.”

The campaign will launch in the Erne Conference Room of Fermanagh House, Enniskillen at 4pm on Tuesday, March 6. 

Fermanagh came to the attention of Friends of the Earth when fracking company Tamboran was successfully halted from fracking near Belcoo in 2014 amid a 24-hour protest camp.

READ: Tamboran to drill Belcoo site by late August

“It was so close, the drills were at the border the day Mark H. Durkan [halted] the process,” recalled Mr. Bakewell. 
He is hopeful local anti-fracking activists will get behind this latest campaign which wants to “get all public funds out of fossil fuel assets, especially our local authority and civil service pension pots.”

READ: "Insufficient information" and "concerns" halt Tamboran drill plans

“From the £5 billion pension pot, £350 million is invested in fossil fuel assets such as BT, Shell – the big-hitters, that are still failing to shift away from fossil fuels,” said Mr. Bakewell.

The Fossil Free NI campaigners will begin by asking all local Councillors to sign a letter to NILGOSC to divest from fossil fuel companies by 2020.
“We want to get a least half of the local councillors to sign, we will then deliver the letter to NILGOSC. If they don’t get the message, we will approach the unions and get the workers to add their voice to this,” Mr. Bakewell told The Impartial Reporter.

Divestment pledges have been made by a number of bodies, including New York City Council, the British Medical Association, the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation and the World Council of Churches.

Appealing for locals to attend the launch, Mr. Bakewell pointed out that it is 10 years since the UK Climate Change Act which committed to reducing emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.
He concluded: “That was not replicated in Northern Ireland, where we have had 10 lost years of climate action.”