THE BIG SHIFT – moving funding from fossil fuels to renewables.

Global economic stability is governed by trade and investment – topics we hear a great deal about but seldom fully understand. The implications for future sustainability are often inextricably linked with this investment and can be easily overlooked due to the sheer size of the challenge they present if change is needed. For example, across the world, billions of pounds support the extraction of fossil fuels despite their ongoing contribution to climate change. Very few banks and financial institutions are exempt from this trade which, in turn, means that almost everyone with a bank account should have an interest in where their money is used. From Wall Street to Armada Way, money is at the heart of key, life-changing, decisions.
Christian Aid’s ‘The Big Shift’ campaign is encouraging the big banks to move away from funding fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. It builds on finding positive solutions to one of the key socio-economic impacts of a sustainable future and, in particular, the future for those most at risk. The campaign came to Plymouth in July 2017.

To Contact The Big Shift Campaign
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Why Christian Aid ?
Christian Aid builds on the church’s commitment to stewardship and our responsibility for the planet. They now represent the views of 45 church groups with the Govt’s Dept for International Development and have an extensive portfolio of projects across the globe. As an NGO Christian Aid works first and foremost with the world’s poorest nations and, particularly, those at risk from climate change. Their Big Shift campaign encourages local action and a series of questions aimed at changing the way the banks finance the fossil fuel industries.
Christian Aid is no stranger to the big challenge. They have been involved in projects to tackle climate change across the world. In Mali, for example, the impacts of climate change and desertification have been mitigated by the installation of underground ‘walls’ that allow run-off flows to pool. This, in turn, prevents surface water evaporation and has encouraged the development of raised market gardens that are making a huge difference to local sustainability and well-being.
In Bangladesh, where the rice paddies were being ‘polluted’ and becoming infertile, the solution includes creating plinths to raise the rice paddies above the salt water. However, it was also noted that the traditional trade of raising ducks was also under threat as they too were dying out. The solution was to find a hardy breed of duck that could be successfully introduced. Christian Aid found a breed of Scottish duck that is resilient to the change from fresh to saline water and these are now supplementing the local ducks in areas damaged by the ingress of saline conditions. Once again, local economic sustainability benefited from what was a relatively simple, sustainable solution.
So What is The Big Shift all about ?
The Big Shift is all about finance. It argues that fossil fuels are not essential to sustainable development and yet funding and finance impact on almost every step from extraction to disposal. It is thought that the global impact supports a market worth $5trillion; with its associated political and lobbying influences.
Phase 1 of The Big Shift focused on coal : This had a high profile in COP 21 in Paris where the Paris Agreement sought to limit global warming to 2 degrees. This met with some success as the call to phase out coal fired energy by 2050 has actually been met in the UK with a commitment to phasing out coal by 2030 – twenty years ahead of expectations. This is clearly significant given the recent US decision to support fossil fuels and withdraw from the Paris Agreement. However, the US withdrawal may not be as damaging as first thought. Over 2000 US states, cities and towns, including New York and California, churches and NGOs have confirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and it is felt that ‘people power’ will prevail. Indeed, elsewhere, both Muslim and Jewish partners are also taking action and China is proposing some innovative solutions that link the moral and financial imperatives for the planet…….action for sustainability at a local level is often leading the way.
Phase 2 focused on the Church, persuading churches to considered where their energy was purchased from and where their assets were invested.
And Phase 3 focuses on the banks and the need to ‘clean up our cash’. Many of the high street banks are known for their support of the fossil fuel industries (approx. £29 billion in the UK); with only Triodos applying a very different approach. The Paris Pledge for Action saw 200 governments asking for commitments to change and, reassuringly, many of the popular banks signed up to this, saying :
“ We realise that damaging climate change threatens our ability, and the ability of future generations, to live a thrive in a peaceful and prosperous world.”

Even the Bank of England’s CEO, Mark Carney, has commented that the ‘carbon bubble’ will eventually burst and fossil fuels will become a risky investment as their value falls. This may have prompted Volvo’s decision to move to hybrid cars. It is felt to be an inevitable shift that is influencing development, innovation and technology and, in some cases, policy making.
The Big Shift has graded all of the actions taken by banks and, in the UK, the four leading high street options have scored D. Through the campaign they are being encouraged to :
• Draw up a transition plan
• Stop the financing of coal
• Report on the carbon footprinting of financing.
• Increase the finance available to renewable energy.
The current campaign encourages the bank’s customers to send in letters requesting this change (templates are available – see the link at the bottom of this page). Local action is also being arranged.
What can Plymouth do to help ?

The Big Shift Campaign came to Plymouth on 24th July when passers-by, local campaigners and the press were called upon to witness the hand-over of letters and the collective commitments and comments made throughout the campaign to Barclays Bank before before the team moved on to visit other key banks in the City Centre.
The Big Shift is a high profile campaign and both individuals and groups are being encouraged to add their comments to Big Shift posters or to send them in to the national campaign detailed on their website (see below).
It was noted that local funding and financing is gaining strength in the South West, with a number of groups focusing on ‘good growth’ and ‘circular economies’ emerging as interest in the issue grows. But that the banks are still funding coal fired power stations and extraction around the world. If the focus can be shifted to investment in renewables, with incremental changes, the world, and the South West, will benefit in many ways.

• For more information visit The Big Shift’s web page at :

Contact Info

  • Devonport Guildhall, Ker St, Plymouth PL1 4EL

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