A group of prominent authors, including Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, and Gary Younge, set the stage for a potential clash as they call on the Edinburgh Book Festival to sever its ties with sponsor Baillie Gifford due to its investments in fossil fuels.
The authors have signed an open letter expressing their solidarity with those affected by the climate crisis and criticising Baillie Gifford’s investments in oil and gas companies, accusing them of contributing to “corporate greed” while many in the UK struggle with fuel poverty and the cost of living crisis.
Baillie Gifford, an investment firm, had approximately £4.5 billion invested in oil and gas companies in 2022. The signatories of the letter have demanded that the book festival apply pressure on its main sponsor to divest from fossil fuels. If the company fails to do so, the authors have threatened to boycott the 2024 book festival.
Greta Thunberg, the renowned climate activist, had previously withdrawn from an event at the festival, accusing Baillie Gifford of “greenwashing.” The company refuted being a “significant fossil fuel investor.”
The authors who signed the open letter emphasise the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of “There Are More Things,” pointed out that Baillie Gifford’s investments in fossil fuel companies contradict the festival’s cultural values and could be seen as endorsing the destruction of the environment.
Mikaela Loach, author of “It’s Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World,” condemned Baillie Gifford’s significant investments in fossil fuel corporations, stating that such support is unacceptable in a time of climate crisis. She questioned why the festival, known for its commitment to promoting literature, would tolerate sponsorships from entities contributing to environmental degradation.
Author Guy Gunaratne, known for “Mister, Mister,” noted that the Edinburgh International Book Festival has become a platform for discussions on climate and environmental justice. He emphasised the need for the festival to take a stand and demonstrate its commitment to tackling urgent global issues.
Baillie Gifford refrained from commenting directly on the authors’ letter but reiterated its support for open debate and discussions, expressing its long-standing support for the book festival.
As the controversy unfolds, it remains to be seen how the Edinburgh International Book Festival will respond to the authors’ call for divestment and ethical sponsorship practices.