Leading authors threaten to boycott top Edinburgh book festivalAugust 12, 2023
Leading authors threaten to boycott top Edinburgh book festival because of a sponsor’s ties to fossil fuel firms
- Zadie Smith, Gary Tounge and Ali Smith are among those who have signed letter
- They demand firm Baillie Gifford should divest its money from fossil fuels
Leading authors have threatened a boycott of next year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival because of links between the event’s sponsor and ‘fossil fuel companies’.
Zadie Smith, Gary Younge and Ali Smith are among the writers appearing at this year’s festival who have signed an open letter protesting at the ‘huge profits from global disaster’ made by the multi-billion pound corporations.
They have demanded that finance firm Baillie Gifford – a firm with up to £5billion invested in fossil fuel corporations – should divest its money or the festival should find another backer.
The letter, signed by more than 50 authors and literature professionals, states: ‘These corporations fuel the climate crisis. They’re making huge profits from global disaster and hide behind esteemed cultural institutions like the Edinburgh Book Festival.
‘The only meaningful change is divestment. I call on Baillie Gifford to divest its £5bn from fossil fuel companies.
‘If it does not do so, I call on the Edinburgh Book Festival to find alternative sponsors for 2024. If it does not, I call on all authors to commit to boycotting the festival in 2024.’
Leading authors have threatened a boycott of next year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival because of links between the event’s sponsor and ‘fossil fuel companies’
Zadie Smith (pictured) Gary Younge and Ali Smith are among the writers appearing at this year’s festival who have signed an open letter protesting at the ‘huge profits from global disaster’ made by the multi-billion pound corporations
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has already cancelled an appearance at this year’s festival, which starts today and has ‘Climate Positive’ as one of its themes, after accusing Baillie Gifford of ‘greenwashing’ through the sponsorship of cultural events.
The Swedish campaigner, who had been due to appear at the Edinburgh Playhouse tomorrow, said: ‘I do not want to be associated with events that accept this kind of sponsorship.’
Baillie Gifford rejected claims that it invests ‘heavily’, saying between just 2 and 5 per cent of its clients’ money was invested in firms with links to fossil fuel activities.
Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of acclaimed novel There Are More Things, said: ‘This summer has been defined by global wildfires, flooding and extreme heat: the climate crisis is here.
‘In the midst of climate breakdown, Baillie Gifford is investing almost £5billion into the cause of this crisis: companies that profit from the fossil fuel industry.
‘Edinburgh International Book Festival allowing them to sponsor cultural events gives them a social licence to continue funding the destruction of our only home.’
Mikaela Loach, author of It’s Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World, said investments in corporations making money from the fossil fuel industry were ‘unjustifiable in a climate crisis’.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has already cancelled an appearance at this year’s festival
She said the book festival must stand by its ‘Climate Positive’ commitment.
Nick Thomas, a partner at Baillie Gifford, said: ‘We are not a significant fossil fuel investor. Only 2 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.
‘Currently, 5 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.’
Nick Barley, director of the book festival, said he wanted to talk to authors and pledged that organisers would ‘carefully’ consider the contents of the letter.
He added: ‘We looked very closely at the work of Baillie Gifford and it seems to us that they are in fact investing in companies that are seeking to resolve the crisis.’
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