19 October 2015
Data recently released shows UK councils have invested £14 billion of their pension funds into fossil fuels. That’s £281 for every UK resident, and enough to build over 200,000 new homes, or power Scotland with 100% renewable energy.
Climate change is the biggest threat facing us, and to counter this threat, we need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. Scientists have warned that to avoid uncontrollable climate change, the majority of available fossil fuels must remain in the ground.
In addition to the climate risk presented by the continued extraction of fossil fuels, there is a looming economic risk. A recent report claims that the LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) has, over the past 18 months, seen a sharp decline in the value of its holdings in coal. The LGPS provides pensions for 4.6m people, including social workers, school staff, bus drivers, librarians, park attendants and housing officers. These people could see the value of their future pensions eroded if fund managers fail to incorporate climate change and carbon risk into their investment strategy. Pension fund managers could ultimately be sued if they ignore these risks.
On September 14th, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the UK Parliamentary Pension fund to divest. However, local authorities have been slow to act, with so far only 3 of the 433 UK principal authorities voting to divest, the most recent being Kirklees Council.
On Saturday, October 15th, Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party held an information stall in Walthamstow Town Square, to collect signatures asking Waltham Forest Council to divest from fossil fuels. Currently, Waltham Forest has a total of £44,096,000 invested in fossil fuels, while Redbridge has £32,852,000.
Hannah Boustred, of Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party, said: “Waltham Forest Council have said they want to put climate change at the heart of their policies - which have seemed to be hollow words - so this is an opportunity where they could show they are serious about climate change and divest from fossil fuels.”
Divesting from fossil fuels would highlight the destructive influence of the oil and gas industry and encourage people to invest in more ethical, cleaner businesses such as renewable energy.
Hannah concluded: “We strongly advise Waltham Forest Council to consider Fossil Free Kirklees, a motion on Fossil Fuel Divestment which was drafted by Green Party councillor Andrew Cooper and passed on October 7th by Kirklees Council.