Moreland City Council voted unanimously to divest from fossil fuels on October 7. It is the first Australian council to do so.
Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, who has been working with 350.org and Climate Action Moreland on the campaign, said it was a “tribute to their hard work over almost three years”.
Greens councillors have also supported the campaign from the start.
“Last night, we crossed the final hurdle and decided to divest. Without the grassroots campaign, councillors would never have done this,” Bolton said.
The recommended policy to council is for positive screening — rewarding financial institutions that are not investing in fossil fuels.
But Bolton said the policy needed to be stronger. She successfully moved an amendment proposing a penalty for companies investing in fossil fuel.
She told Green Left Weekly: “Currently, the non-fossil fuel banks, such as Bendigo Bank, don't provide all the services council needs. So, it can't avoid using the services of some banks that invest in fossil fuel.
“This shows the limits of relying on the market to achieve social and environmental change.
“My amendment means that council will also be moving to penalise financial institutions that invest in fossil fuel.
“Unlike other institutions, such as universities, which have shares, it's a little more complicated for councils to take this sort of action. But Moreland has shown that it can be done.”
Bolton said that while she was very pleased with council's decision, “we are a long way off taking effective action on climate change.
“The bushfires raging across Victoria this early in the season should ring alarm bells about climate change. That means that everyone concerned must add to the pressure on governments — at all levels — in whatever way they can.”