UK Councils:

Fuelling the Fire

New data has revealed that councils across the UK are investing more than £16 billion in the fossil fuel industry – the companies responsible for the climate crisis.

It’s time for our local councils to stop #fuellingthefire and divest.

Wildfires in Portugal

Press

Press enquiries contact: Anna Galkina / Platform / 07942044472 / anna@platformlondon.org

Download full briefing including comparison tables and methodology overview.

  • Councils invest £16.1 billion of pensions into fossil fuel companies out of a total of £289.9 billion, new data reveals
  • No significant change on 2015 investments, despite pressure to take climate risk into account
  • Greater Manchester, Dumfries and Galloway, Torfaen, and Hammersmith and Fulham authorities are among the most exposed to fossil fuel investments

Jane Thewlis, West Yorkshire Pension Fund member and divestment campaigner, said:

“Our pensions are investing in the companies responsible for the climate crisis. This flies in the face of the Paris Agreement, and of all the efforts being made locally to reduce emissions and combat climate change. It’s time to divest.”

George Guivalu Nacewa, Fiji Climate Warrior attending the COP23 talks in Bonn, said:

“In the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not a debate, it is our reality. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We no longer have time to talk. Now is the time to act.”

Friends of the Earth divestment campaigner Deirdre Duff said:

“It’s astonishing that councils across the UK are continuing to invest vast sums of money in climate-wrecking fossil fuels through their pension funds. With urgent action needed to tackle the climate change crisis our local authorities should be doing far more on this issue.

“Council pension funds should pull their cash out of coal, gas and oil and invest in the new technologies that are already helping to build a cleaner, safer future.”

Platform campaigner Sarah Shoraka said:

“Local councils are gambling with our future. By continuing to heavily invest in companies like BP and Shell, local authorities are risking the future of our pensions and our climate.

“Council pension funds have an opportunity to invest instead in things communities really need: affordable housing, public transport, and publicly owned renewable energy. Councils must divest to secure pensions and invest in our future.”

Ellen Gibson, Divestment Campaigner with 350.org, said:

“With hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, wildfires ravaging southern Europe and flooding and drought destroying lives across the world – the impacts of climate change are hitting hard. Despite this, UK councils are still plowing billions into companies like Exxon, Shell and BP who have spent decades fuelling the crisis, and profiting on its back.

“Climate change isn’t a problem for future generations – it’s happening now, and action has never been more urgent. Our councils, and all public institutions, must cut their ties with the fossil fuel companies responsible and divest.”

Ric Lander, Friends of the Earth Scotland Divestment Campaigner, said:

“Scotland’s councils are ignoring the realities of climate change. Their investments in deeply destructive fossil fuel companies fly in the face of Scotland’s wider efforts to phase out fossil fuel cars and ban fracking.

“Fossil fuel companies won’t be talked into dropping their core business of digging oil, gas and coal out of the ground. Councillors who oversee these funds need to take action to make their pension funds compatible with a future worth living in by divesting.”

Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convenor in UNISON Scotland and National Executive Committee member for UNISON, says:

Our priority always needs to be to ensure our member’s pensions are protected. We are increasingly aware that investments in fossil fuels are not only harmful to the environment but put the sustainable future of our pensions at risk.

“We have made progress with a few pension funds taking the steps towards divestment. We need to wake the rest up before our pensions are put at risk with investments that will lose value as governments take steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels.”

Coverage:

Press Releases

May 23, 2019

MP’S CALL FOR DIVESTMENT OF FOSSIL FUELS FROM PENSION FUND

In historic debate in parliament more than one third of MPs call on pension fund trustees to stop investing in fossil fuels in support of move to net zero emissions

[Westminster, UK] Today, MPs will debate the financial and ethical risks of fossil fuel investments by Pension Funds, after a third of serving MPs and 29 former MPs have called on their own pension fund to divest its significant fossil fuel holdings.

The cross-party group of MPs has asked the Parliamentary Pension Fund to disclose its investments in carbon-intensive industries, and publicly commit to phasing out fossil fuel investments [1]. In response, trustees of the Parliamentary Pension Fund are due to produce a Climate Change Investment Policy for the £700m fund, which currently holds £11.68m shares in fossil fuel company BP Plc, its largest single holding, and £10.95m in Royal Dutch Shell [2,3].

The UN’s October report on limiting global warming to 1.5°C demands that world leaders urgently increase efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enacting far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society within the next few years. In contrast, fossil fuel companies are on course to increase their discovery of new oil and gas reserves by 30% in 2019 [4] and dedicate only 1.3% of their spending to clean energy projects [5].

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, the Environmental Audit Committee and major global fund managers have publicly warned that people’s pensions are at risk by exposure to overvalued carbon assets as the world moves to cheaper renewables and governments legislate for net zero emissions [6].

The debate, secured by Liberal Democrat, Sir Ed Davey MP, comes at a time of intense focus on the climate crisis, following the recent declaration of a ‘climate and environment emergency’, by parliament, evidence of record levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a fourth UK-wide school climate strike taking place on Friday.

Ed Davey, former Energy and Climate Secretary and MP for Kingston and Surbiton, said: “Declaring a climate emergency is the easy part – now we need strong action to make net zero emissions a reality. By continuing to invest in fossil fuel firms, we are fuelling the fire of climate breakdown – and risking another financial crash. We must decarbonise capitalism.

UK banks and pension funds must stop making the climate crisis worse and urgently switch to investing in clean tech to secure both our planet and people’s future pensions.”

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “The worst impacts of climate breakdown are being felt by those who have done the least to cause the problem, as shown by the devastating impacts of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It is morally unacceptable that we are helping to fund this by investing in fossil fuel companies. It’s time MPs joined the majority of UK universities, numerous faith groups and a growing number of local authorities in saying we can no longer use our pension funds to gamble with people’s lives and with the future of the planet. The climate emergency demands that all pension funds divest from fossil fuels and invest in positive solutions to the climate crisis.”

The group of cross party MPs, spearheaded by Lucas, have been pressuring the Parliamentary Pension Fund to divest its significant holdings in fossil fuels since 2014. The ‘Divest Parliament’ campaign has now been backed by one third of MPs, including 20 Conservatives such as Nicky Morgan, James Heappey, and Lord Deben (Chair of the Committee on Climate Change).

If Parliament decides to divest the MPs Pension Fund from fossil fuels, it will join the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, the Greater London Authority’s Pension Fund, the New York City Pension fund, local authorities including Southwark and Islington and two thirds of UK universities. Globally, more than 1000 funds worth over $8.7 trillion have made divestment commitments [7].

ENDS

For more information and interviews – please contact:

tytus.murphy@350.org – 07908 819 691

william.aitchinson@greenhousepr.co.uk – 07412 872453

Notes to Editors

[1] Divest Parliament pledge text available here and full list of supportive MPs available here. The campaign asks the Pension Fund to ‘quantify, review and disclose its investments in carbon-intensive industries, engage in a dialogue with fund members and publicly commit to phasing out fossil fuel investments over an appropriate time-scale.’  www.divestparliament.org

[2] See coverage in The Guardian.

[3] According to the 2018 report, the largest holding of the PCPF is in BP Plc (£11.68m). The fund also contains holdings in Royal Dutch Shell Plc (£10.95m).

[4] Rystad Energy have reported that the industry is on course to increase discovery of new oil and gas reserves by 30% in 2019

[5] A recent report by Carbon Disclosure Project revealed that on average, fossil fuel companies allocated just 1.3 per cent of their total 2018 capital expenditure to green energy projects, coverage in The Financial Times.

[6] Consulting giant Mercer, UK fund manager Legal & General and the world’s largest fund manager, BlackRock, have all produced reports in 2019 on the investing implications of climate change.

[7] To date, over 1000 institutions across the globe – representing funds worth over $8.7 trillion – have made some form of divestment commitment. Full list of commitments available here.

FacebookTwitter