Mayoral candidates back moves to make the West Midlands fossil free
Mayoral Candidates Sion Simon (Labour), James Burn (Green) have made manifesto commitments supporting divestment from fossil fuels following calls from regional campaign group Divest West Midlands Pension Fund. To date, worldwide, approximately 688 institutions and over 58,000 individuals representing $5.5 trillion in assets has been divested from fossil fuels.
Divest WMPF have called on Mayoral candidates to speak out in favour of a fossil free West Midlands and make a manifesto commitment to support the call to divest the Local Government Pension Fund from its fossil fuel investments.
In response, Sion Simon’s manifesto states;
‘I want our region to become the Green Capital of England, a 100% clean energy region by 2050.’ It includes a commitment to ‘redirect the regional pension funds currently invested in the fossil fuel industry.’
James Burn’s manifesto includes a commitment to ‘take all possible steps to divest the West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) of its investments in fossil-fuel industries and push for more pension funds to be invested in local energy technologies.’
Both James Burn and Sion Simon have also made commitments to local clean energy production and green bonds in an endorsement for clean investment and affirmative climate action in the region.
Former President of the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) and Mayoral Candidate for the Communist Party Graham Stevenson has also stated he would strongly support campaigns to divest local pensions from fossil fuels.
Liberal Democrat Candidate Beverley Nielsen stated ‘..we need to drive greater Trustee activism in diverting pension funds, where possible, to support environmentally sustainable growth and investments in the West Midlands.’ Whilst not backing divestment at this time UKIP’s Pete Durnell has backed a Fossil Free West Midlands and Conservative Andy Street’s manifesto expresses support for low carbon industries.
Kay Edwards, coordinator of Divest WMPF commented;
“As leader of the combined authority, the Metro Mayor, will be in a position to influence and lead in tackling climate change. We welcome commitments to press the pension fund to divest the £393 million it currently invests in coal, oil and gas companies. Instead, the West Midlands could reinvest this money into building new homes, clean renewable energy or public transport.
“Reports have shown that climate change is already, and will continue to have great impacts on our region and the world.“
CONTACT: Kay Edwards – [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- ‘Divest WMPF’ is a group of pension holders and concerned constituents.We are asking West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) to rule out any new investment in fossil fuel industries, and to divest from existing holdings within five years.
- The fossil fuel divestment campaign is a growing international movement calling on institutions to divest (sell their shares) from fossil fuels to take action against catastrophic climate change. According to an Oxford University report it is now ‘the fastest growing divestment movement the world has ever seen’.
- A divestment commitment is a principled commitment to wind down exposure to the Carbon Underground top 200 fossil fuel companies over a 5 year period.
- The Local Government Pension Scheme is one of the largest public sector pension schemes, with 4.6 million members nationally.
- In March 2014, following a clarification from the UK Law Commission on the interpretation of fiduciary duty, the Local Government Association (LGA) (England & Wales) published a legal opinion on how fiduciary duties affected the scope for a Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), concluding that “the precise choice of investment may be influenced by wider social, ethical or environmental considerations, so long as that that does not risk material financial detriment to the fund.”
- As of January 2017 695 institutions whose assets total over $5.44 trillion have made divestment commitments
- Environmental Strategy – Think Global: Act Local 2014-19. West Midlands Combined Authority.
- Beverley Nielsen stated ‘In principle, we support investments in green and renewable West Midlands based businesses and industries employing local people and supporting local supply chains. I am conscious of the Pension Fund Trustees’ fiduciary duties in ensuring that these are properly fulfilled in the interest of Pension Fund holders. However, we need to drive greater Trustee activism in diverting these funds, where possible, to support environmentally sustainable growth and investments in the West Midlands.’
- UKIP’s Pete Durnell has expressed “support for a ‘managed transition’ to a Fossil Free West Midlands, whilst stopping short of calling for an immediate divestment.”
- In his manifesto Andy Street recognises that supporting low carbon and environmental businesses can help to tackle climate change and has stressed the need to ‘make sure that our research programmes, housing and environmental policies and low carbon businesses are aligned and working together’.
- In the London Mayoral Election of 2016 divestment by the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) had cross-party backing – supported by the Labour, Conservative,Liberal Democrat and Green candidates, who secured 89.6% of the popular vote between them.
- In the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Environmental Strategy James Aspinall (Director of Corporate Services) states; “We are serious about carbon reduction and climate change and we will therefore take an active leadership role to influence others.” “Flooding and extreme weather events which damage assets and disrupt business operations pose the greatest risk to English businesses now and in the future.”
- “Climate change will impact upon on water security, agricultural production and economic resources around the world. These impacts can in turn exacerbate risks from conflict, migration, and humanitarian crises abroad, with implications for the UK.”The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report 2017 National Summary – England