WHO’S afraid of a sustainable future?
Newcastle City Council has voted to insert a clause into its investment policy that declares a “preference to enter into environmentally and socially responsible investments” where all other conditions are equal.
Yet from the hysterical reaction to this very modest step, you would think the council had voted to close down coal mining in the Hunter.
In fact, Newcastle City Council has virtually no power over what the coal industry does in this city. The council holds only indirect investments in the industry through its term deposits in banks, amounting to about $270million. In essence, the council’s resolution was largely symbolic.
For that, the councillors who voted in favour of the move are being accused of threatening the future of the coal industry and the livelihoods of residents.
We have done no such thing.
We as councillors under Section 232 (2) of the Local Government Act 1993 are required to “represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers” and to “provide leadership and guidance to the community”. To my mind, that means being responsible, in all senses of the word, with our investments.
The Liberal councillors who have moved rescission want us to just shut up about social and environmental responsibilities because those responsibilities point us directly away from industries that threaten our climate, job security and the very viability of the land that sustains us.
The council’s decision reflects an increasingly widespread community desire for safe, clean, sustainable technologies and energy sources that do not fuel global warming.
But the really scary fact for the coal industry barons, and their political champions like Joel Fitzgibbon, Bob Baldwin and Tony Abbott, is that renewable energy technologies are becoming more and more economically viable and politically popular.
Not only is the Australian coal industry a major contributor to global warming, it also employs fewer workers as it becomes increasingly automated and lays waste to vast tracts of our best agricultural land, excavating “voids” at an alarming rate.
Newcastle needs to think about a future beyond coal. Global warming threatens us all. A diverse economy is a strong, resilient economy. The council’s change in investment policy reinforces a growing movement towards ethical investment. We need to focus on what is the best strategy to ensure a healthy, safe and secure economic future for the people of our region. In adopting its investments resolution, Newcastle council has simply initiated this vital discussion.
Therese Doyle is a Greens councillor on Newcastle City Council