December 14, 2016

Southwark Council becomes largest UK pension fund to divest from fossil fuels

Media advisory for immediate release 14.12.2016

Southwark Council becomes largest UK pension fund to divest from fossil fuels

Southwark, London — On 13 December, the London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund became the largest in the UK to commit to start moving away from investments in fossil fuels.

The pension fund is worth over £1.2 billion, making it the largest local government pension scheme in the UK to make such a commitment. In new ‘Responsible Investment Principles’ announced at the Southwark Cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the Chair of the Pension Fund, Councillor Fiona Colley committed to divesting over time any current investments in fossil fuels, citing the growing financial risks. She also announced that the fund would explore investment in renewable energy.

The announcement follows a 2 year campaign spearheaded by local residents, pension fund members and Council employees, and came just one day after news that globally, institutions worth more than $5 trillion across 76 countries have made commitments to divest.

Handing in an 1000 signature strong petition, on behalf of the local campaign group Fossil Free Southwark to the Cabinet, 8 year-old Southwark resident Lilly Obregon said:

“When I am older I want to work in the Government, so I can help people to stop using fossil fuels. I’m not old enough to do this yet so instead I’ve been collecting petition signatures with Fossil Free Southwark.”

In a presentation to the Cabinet, Barbara Selby, a retired Council worker and member of the Pension Fund, said:

“To meet our internationally-agreed climate targets, the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground, making fossil fuel investments extremely risky in the long-term. I don’t want my pension to become worthless due to these risks, or to be causing irreversible climate change, that’s why I’m delighted with today’s decision.”

The campaign to divest the Southwark pension fund has been backed by almost 1000 petition signatories and a number of Southwark political figures including the local MPs Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle. The Southwark branches of the UNISON and GMB unions are also official campaign supporters.

On behalf of Fossil Free Southwark, local resident and campaigner Tim Gee commented:

“Climate change is the biggest issue on the planet, and we can all have a role in addressing it. We warmly welcome these new investments principles that have been endorsed by the Cabinet, and hope that the Pensions Advisory Panel will put these principles into practice at the earliest opportunity.”


Contact | 07908 819 691 | @FossilFreeSwk

  • Photos (credit Joe Twigg) of Fossil Free Southwark members handing in the petition to the Cabinet are available here
  • Photos (credit Samantha Owen) from the Fossil Free Southwark campaign launch and the team collecting petition signatures in Peckham are available here
  1. 688 institutions representing $5 trillion worth of assets across the world have already committed to divest from fossil fuels
  2. In the UK, nine local councils have passed motions in favour of divestment, and four pension funds have made commitments of some kind – South Yorkshire, and the London boroughs of Haringey, Waltham Forest and Southwark. To view the full list of commitments, go to:
  3. The concluding report of a recent survey of members of the Southwark Pension Fund showed 46.7% of respondents specifying renewable energy as their preferred sector for investment of their pension, with this sector scoring above residential social care and medical research – survey available here