book festival

Greta Thunberg pulls out of book festival event after Ferret revelations

Greta Thunberg has pulled out of an event at this year’s Edinburgh book festival after Ferret revelations about its sponsor’s investments in firms who profit from fossil fuels. 

Last week we revealed that Baillie Gifford, the lead sponsor of this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, had billions of pounds invested in firms that profit from oil, gas or coal. 

According to its own climate report, on 31 December 2022, two per cent of Baillie Gifford’s total investments were in companies which make at least five per cent of their money from the oil or gas industries, while 0.3 per cent were in firms which profit from the mining and sale of coal.

Baillie Gifford’s total investments were worth £223bn at the end of 2022. Based on this number, The Ferret calculated that Baillie Gifford had approximately £4.5bn invested in companies involved with oil and gas, and up to £670m in companies involved in the sale and mining of coal at that time.

In a statement released on the book festival’s website, Thunberg said: “I am unfortunately unable to attend the Edinburgh Book Festival. As a climate activist I cannot attend an event which receives sponsorship from Baillie Gifford, who invest heavily in the fossil fuel industry. 

“Greenwashing efforts by the fossil fuel industry, including sponsorship of cultural events, allow them to keep the social licence to continue operating.”

The book festival’s director, Nick Barley, said he fully respected Thunberg’s decision. “However, in applauding Greta for standing by her principles, we too must stand by ours,” he said. 

“The Book Festival exists to give a platform for debate and discussion around key issues affecting humanity today – including the climate emergency. As a charitable organisation, we would not be in a position to provide that platform without the long-term support of organisations such as Baillie Gifford. 

“We strongly believe that Baillie Gifford are part of the solution to the climate emergency. They are early investors in progressive climate positive companies, providing funds to help them grow. While they acknowledge there is still work to do, we have seen them make rapid progress throughout our 19-year relationship.”

A Baillie Gifford spokesperson said: “We are not a significant fossil fuel investor. Only two per cent of our clients’ money is invested in companies with some business related to fossil fuels. This compares to the market average of 11 per cent.

“Of those companies, some have already moved most of their business away from fossil fuels, and many are helping to drive the transition to clean energy.

“Currently, five per cent of our clients’ money is invested in companies whose sole purpose is to develop clean energy solutions.

“We believe in open debate and discussion which is why we are long-term supporters of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.”

Photo Credit: Stefan Müller, CC BY 2.0.

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