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Author Walks Out of Edinburgh Book Festival Over Sponsor’s Fossil Fuel Links

A leading climate crisis author has staged a walkout at the Edinburgh international book festival in protest at its sponsor’s links to fossil fuel companies.

The author and climate activist Mikaela Loach interrupted a discussion about changing the climate narrative on Saturday evening to lead a demonstration about the festival’s main sponsor, the investment company Baillie Gifford.

In a video of the protest posted on Instagram on Sunday, she accused the firm of “bankrolling” the climate crisis.

She said to the audience: “I can’t actually in good faith continue just talking about these issues without doing something, especially given that the festival is sponsored by an investment firm that is bankrolling this climate crisis.

“Baillie Gifford are an investment firm that have £5bn of investments in the fossil fuel industry. Edinburgh book festival: you wouldn’t burn books, so why are you burning the planet? Drop Baillie Gifford.”

Loach appeared to choke back tears as she described the catastrophic impact of global heating before leading the audience on to the street with chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho – Baillie Gifford’s got to go”.

In an emotional speech, the author said: “I think, especially recently, if you look across the world, Maui is literally on fire as we’ve seen right now.”

Loach, who is British and was born in Jamaica, added: “I don’t know if my ancestral land will still be there if I have children or if I have descendants. And the reason for this is because of investments in fossil fuels.

“The reason for this is because of fossil fuel companies not caring about the climate crisis, whether they say they do or not. So we have to remove that finance from them, any tactic that we can, we have to stop them from being able to exist.”

She said that she would rather be discussing her book, It’s Not That Radical: Climate Action to Transform Our World, with her fellow panellists than having to stage the protest.

More than 50 authors, including Zadie Smith, Ali Smith and Katherine Rundell sent an open letter this week calling on the festival to drop any sponsor that invests in fossil fuels.

It followed the announcement earlier this month by climate activist Greta Thunberg that she was cancelling her scheduled appearance at the festival, accusing Baillie Gifford of “greenwashing”.

The Guardian has contacted Baillie Gifford, the festival and Loach for comment.

A representative from Baillie Gifford previously said that the firm “has nothing further to add” to the statement that it issued in response to Thunberg’s withdrawal. In that statement, Nick Thomas, a partner at Baillie Gifford, said the company is “not a significant fossil fuel investor”.

The company said in a previous briefing that only 2% of its clients’ money is invested in companies with more than 5% of their revenue coming from fossil fuel activities, compared with the market average of 11%. It also noted that it invested more than double the proportion of clients’ money “in companies dedicated to clean energy solutions”. It also disputes that £5bn has been invested in fossil fuel companies.

In response to the letter last week, the festival’s director, Nick Barley, thanked the authors and asked for time to consider their points. He said they had looked carefully at the firm before using them and concluded that they were investing more in green energy.

Barley said: “We fully acknowledge your concerns about the devastating impact of fossil fuel exploitation on the climate: as individuals and as a charity, we firmly agree. For these reasons, we promise to think about your letter carefully. The last thing we want is to let anyone give the impression we are on opposite sides.”

Source : The Guardian