Warning that council pensions are under fossil fuel threat

Warning over council pension investments
Warning over council pension investments

MORAY COUNCIL WORKERS’ pension fund should move away from investing in oil, gas and coal according union leaders.

New data published today has revealed that the North East Pension Fund currently has £125million invested in fossil fuels. The fund provides pensions for council workers and related organisations in Moray, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

The data has also shown that throughout the UK, local government pensions invest £14billion in oil, gas and coal. However, international action on climate change will leave these fossil fuel investments worthless – creating a ‘carbon bubble’ that would be deeply damaging to any pension funds exposed to them.

Unison Scotland’s head of bargaining and campaigns, Dave Watson, who represents many fund managers throughout the UK said: “Local authorities have a duty to cut carbon emissions under Scotland’s Climate Change Act.

“This, together with the growing financial risk, is a major factor Scottish local authority pension funds need to consider when making investments in the fossil fuel and similar industries.

“Divesting from fossil fuels is the prudent way for councils to meet both their fiduciary duty to members and their public law duties.”

The data has been produced by research by Friends of the Earth Scotland, whose volunteers and partners have shown that 4.3% of the North East Pension Fund is exposed to fossil fuels – representing the fourth largest investment amongst local authority funds in Scotland.

A pension fund member, Carol Menlove, called for action, saying that pension fund members should have a say in how their funds are invested.

She said: “At present, LGPS members have no choice regarding the funds their money is invested in, and this is wrong. We should all have a choice, even if only to screen out fossil fuel companies like Shell.

“It must surely be possible for the fund to deliver an adequate return by investing in cleaner energy companies?”

Campaigners believe that this pension money should be invested in projects that would benefit the wider community and still provide a secure return on investment, such as renewable energy or social housing.

In February the Strathclyde Pension Fund announced a £10 million investment in smaller-scale renewables and in 2014 the Falkirk fund invested £30 million in social housing.

Ric Lander, finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Our pension money should be invested in the industries of the future, not of the past. At a time when public resources are being squeezed, we should be moving our money into socially useful projects such housing and clean energy.

“Across Scotland folk from churches, unions, universities and local communities are starting to question why so much of their money is invested with so little accountability. It’s time for investors to listen the call to invest in our future.”

Other Scottish organisations have begun distancing their funds from fossil fuels – these include the United Reform Church and the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Earlier this week Fossil Free campaign supporter Leonardo Di Caprio announced in New York that his charitable foundation would join $2.6 trillion (£1.7trillion) of other funds who have divested from fossil fuels to date.