GLOUCESTER Shire Council quietly voted to exclude investing in potentially ‘‘stranded assets’’ such as fossil fuels a week before Newcastle City Council’s divestment vote sparked controversy.
Gloucester mayor John Rosenbaum said councillors surprised themselves by voting unanimously to support a notice of motion from Councillor Aled Hoggett backing ethical investing, which identified fossil fuels as a category to be avoided.
Cr Hoggett, who holds a science degree, said ethical investments included sustainable products, medical solutions, innovative technology, responsible banking, education, aged care and clean energy.
Councillors accepted his description of fossil fuel assets as potentially stranded investments because the assets could be devalued or converted into liabilities because of unanticipated circumstances.
‘‘There is general scientific consensus that the vast majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if the world is to meet the internationally agreed climate commitments,’’ Cr Hoggett wrote in his notice of motion.
‘‘Increasing innovation and implementation of renewable energy generation is also offering viable and advantageous alternatives to fossil fuels.’’
Councillors voted to ‘‘exclude investments that are generally considered unethical and/or at risk of becoming stranded’’.
Cr Rosenbaum said while the council’s investment portfolio of about $7million was only small, and much smaller than Newcastle council’s $270million portfolio, he seconded Cr Hoggett’s motion because ‘‘it’s saying we’re looking at ethical values in what we do’’.
‘‘It’s not about coal and gas,’’ Cr Rosenbaum said.
‘‘I seconded the motion because we need, as a society, to look at our way of life ethically and how other people are being treated.’’
Cr Rosenbaum gave the example of recent controversy about 7-Eleven store workers being exploited and underpaid.
‘‘The 7-Eleven case just highlights why you need to have a conversation within yourself about where your money’s invested and the consequences of those decisions,’’ he said.
The notion of motion said ethical investing avoided gambling, weapons, tobacco, products that are associated with abuses of human rights and exploitation and industries such as the fossil fuel industry because of the impact of climate change on some of the world’s poorest countries.