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

December 4, 2018

200 Cross-Party MPs Call on Pension Fund to Drop Fossil Fuels

As COP24 commences, a cross-party group of 200 MPs and former MPs has called on the MPs’ Pension Fund to phase out its substantial investment in fossil fuel giants such as Shell and BP, following growing concerns about climate change.  

Westminster, UK — A group of 200 cross-party MPs and former MPs have signed the Divest Parliament Pledge, which calls on the MP’s Pension Fund to review and phase out investments in fossil fuel companies [1]. The call follows growing concern among Parliamentarians about the environmental, social and financial risks posed by climate change.

The announcement comes as world leaders meet in Katowice, Poland, for the UN Conference of Parties (COP) to begin discussions about increasing emissions reductions in light of the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees [2]. The report warns that there are only 12 years left to make sure warming stays below this level, and urges a rapid move away from fossil fuels.

Lord Deben, former Conservative MP and Chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change, said: “Preventing disastrous climate change will be the defining challenge of the next decade for world leaders. The UK must show leadership by demonstrating that we are prepared to make the necessary choices. This includes moving investment out of fossil fuels and towards renewables that are already proving that they can be built at the scale needed to power our homes and businesses. Moving quickly towards the Paris goals is the best way to protect our health and our prosperity for many generations to come.”

In December 2017, Jeremy Corbyn became the 100th MP to back Divest Parliament [3] and in the last year has been joined by a growing number of cross-party MPs including Conservatives Justine Greening, Sir Oliver Letwin, and Lord Deben. 29 out of 35 SNP MPs, including Mhairi Black, have also signed the pledge, alongside 11 out of 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, including Party Leader Sir Vince Cable and Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “During COP24, world leaders must outline urgent emissions reduction strategies to contain warming below 1.5 degrees. These strategies will necessitate a rapid and just transition away from a fossil fuel dependent economy, towards renewables – which already power millions of homes and businesses throughout the UK. This transition requires scaling up of investment and I am encouraged that 200 of my colleagues, from across the political spectrum, agree that we should invest the MPs Pension Fund in this greener and brighter future.”

Mhairi Black, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, said: “Today’s young generation, and their children and grandchildren, will face devastating weather impacts, if we don’t take action now. This means a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels and investing in a progressive and just transition to a zero-carbon economy.”

Jo Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I am pleased to join MPs from across the political spectrum in supporting the Divest Parliament pledge and calling on the Trustees of the Parliamentary Pension Fund to move their investments away from carbon-intensive industries. In his speech [yesterday] at the UN Climate Conference, Sir David Attenborough was right when he said that humanity is facing its greatest threat in thousands of years. The dangers of climate change are urgent: for people in some parts of the world, it can already be a matter of life and death. All of us in the UK must do our bit to help cut carbon emissions and ensure we meet our targets in the Paris Agreement. This is bigger than politics: the future of our planet depends upon it.”

The campaign was started in 2014 by a small group of MPs, including the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. Their first success was to pressure the trustees of the MPs Pension Fund to disclose its investments, revealing that the largest individual holding is in BP PLC [4,5]. On average, fossil fuel companies dedicate only 1% of their spending to clean energy projects [6].

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion, who first established the campaign, said: “We’re now a 200 strong cohort of cross-party MPs who believe it is morally indefensible for Parliamentarians to be investing in companies which profit from wrecking our planet. MPs have a duty to take action to prevent the worst of climate change. One simple step we can take is ditching our investments in fossil fuels – and instead invest in clean, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies”.

 

Tytus Murphy, a campaigner with 350.org, said: “The IPCC report is unequivocal: the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground to contain warming below 1.5 degrees. Cross-party MPs backing Divest Parliament acknowledge that it is unacceptable for political leaders to be heavily investing in fossil fuels at a time of climate breakdown. Constituents all over the UK are bringing the demands for a world powered by clean energy to the top of the political agenda – where it firmly belongs.”

If successful, the campaign would see Parliament joining the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, the New York State Pension fund, local authorities such as Waltham Forest and Southwark and two thirds of UK universities in committing to fossil fuel divestment [7].

END

Notes to editor:

[1] 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.’

[2] The IPCC report outlined that emissions must be reduced at a much quicker rate. Cuts of at least 45% are required by 2030 to stay below 1.5 degrees – compared with a 20% cut under the 2 degree pathway – and must come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2 degrees. This requires rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and massive scaling up of investment in renewables, coverage in The Guardian.

[3] Jeremy Corbyn becomes the 100th MP to sign the pledge, coverage in The Financial Times.

[4] In March 2017, it was revealed that the MPs Pension Fund invests in fossil fuels, tobacco and tax avoiders, coverage in The Independent.

[5] Annual report of the MPs Pension Fund is available here. Individual investments: BP PLC (£7.33 million), Royal Dutch Shell A (£3.67 million), Rio Tinto (£3.67 million), Royal Dutch Shell B (£2.93 million) and Total SA (£2.93 million).

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

[7] To date, over 900 institutions across the globe – representing funds worth over $7 trillion – have made some form of divestment commitment. Full list of commitments available here.

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