UPDATED: COP26 host city criticised for fossil fuel investment policy

The city that will host an international climate conference later this year, will invest hundreds of millions of pounds in fossil fuels indefinitely under a new policy, environmental campaigners said today.

Protest by Strathclyde Divest Campaign near Glasgow City Council headquarters over new investment plan for the Strathcyle Pension Fund. Photo: Colin Hattersley Photography for Friends of the Earth Scotland

Glasgow City Council, which runs the Strathclyde Pension Fund, was asked to establish a plan to divest from fossil fuel companies before the COP26 UN climate summit to be hosted in the city in November.

But the new policy, set out in a report to be discussed this week, has been criticised by the Scottish divestment campaign as “morally repugnant” and “banking on the failure of the summit”.

Unless councillors called for action, campaigners said, investment in companies linked to fossil fuels would continue.

Analysis by Friends of the Earth Scotland estimated that the Strathclyde Pension Fund invests more than £836 million in fossil fuel companies. The fund’s own estimate is that oil and gas investments are worth £316 million.

Even the lower figure is the largest investment in climate polluters of any public fund in Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland said.

The report on divestment, to be discussed on Wednesday at the Pension Committee’s final meeting before COP26, includes a suggestion for a traffic light system.

This would rate companies red, amber and green on their climate actions. Firms with a red rating, which could not, or would not adapt, would see a decision to disinvest.

But the report said most of the current holdings would be in the green and amber categories and investment would continue with most companies.

The report recommended “minimum standards” for investment. But it also stressed the importance of engagement with companies, rather than exclusion.

Friends of the Earth Scotland and Divest Strathclyde outlined several problems with the new proposals:

  • Bar for continued investment in climate polluters is so low that most major oil companies would likely be retained
  • No requirement to adhere to either the UN Paris Treaty target to limit global heating to 1.5° or to the City Council’s own climate emergency plan
  • No reference to specific figures, timescales, or deadlines, making it easy for companies to obfuscate to avoid divestment
  • No timescale for full adoption of the policy

Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“Fund members, community activists and the City Council have demanded the Strathclyde Pension Fund come up with a plan to divest from disastrous fossil fuel companies. Now it seems they’ve instead come up with a plan to carry on with business as usual.

“Continuing to invest hundreds of millions in climate polluters is financial folly and morally repugnant. Fossil fuel companies can’t survive if we succeed in building a sustainable future. That also means that, unless this policy is radically altered, Glasgow will host the world’s climate crisis talks knowing it’s pension fund is banking on their failure.

“City Councillors do have the power to change course and invest sustainably. When the Pension Fund Committee scrutinises this proposal on Wednesday they should ask how the policy can be turned into something effective and meaningful, a contribution to climate action that Glasgow could be proud of.”

Isla Scott, of Divest Strathclyde said:

“We are frankly aghast that Strathclyde Pension Fund is still happy to pour hundreds of millions into financing the very companies who are driving the climate crisis and who are getting away with murder. 

“After years of the policy of ‘engagement’ practiced by the Fund, it is clear that this has made very little if any difference to the fossil fuel companies, who are even now planning to maximise the production of oil and gas in many places around the world while greenwashing their continued pollution and lobbying governments to prevent climate action.

“We want to see SPF put in place a real policy that will ensure they divest from these climate-destroying companies and reinvest in a sustainable future. We’ll be watching and holding them to account to make sure they don’t get away with this greenwashing.”

A spokesperson for Strathclyde Pension Fund said:

“It’s welcome that campaigners recognise that our direct investments in industries like oil and gas are already decreasing. They are also dwarfed by our investments in clean, renewable energy.

“Meanwhile, the fund’s exposure to oil and gas is less than half of what it was just five years ago, in terms of a percentage of our passive equity – and closing in on a two-thirds reduction in terms of the overall value of the fund.

“Strathclyde Pension Fund is one of the first large pension funds to approve divestment as a tool to address firms that do not engage with the climate crisis.”


On 8 September 2021, Glasgow City Council’s pensions committee approved the new investment policy.

Stephen Smellie, deputy convenor of Unison Scotland, said:

“The host city for COP26 had the chance to become an international leader in green pensions, but they have sadly fallen short. Given the climate emergency we face, the proposals are too slow, too timid and the soft questions being asked will allow carbon investments to be concealed.”

Divest Strathclyde said:

“We are frankly aghast that Strathclyde Pension Fund is still happy to pour hundreds of millions into financing the very companies who are driving the climate crisis and who are getting away with murder.  After years of the policy of engagement practiced by the fund, it is clear that this has made very little if any difference to the fossil fuel companies, who are now even planning to maximise the production of oil and gas in many places around the world while greenwashing their continued pollution and lobbying governments to prevent climate action.”

Ruth Hayhurst will be reporting from COP26 for DrillOrDrop

19 replies »

  1. The UK does not deserve to be hosting this vital conference. If the host city itself is supporting such dirty energy investments they have failed to give the lead the world needs. Shameful.

    • Here’s hoping that the Scottish government is blessed with a little more integrity than is apparent down South and that Glasgow will indeed rise to the challenge.

  2. And the reality is??

    UK fired up a standby COAL fired power station (West Burton A) as there was no wind, and gas prices have gone through the roof.

    Meanwhile, I am using the benefit of daylight to type this post whilst I note Jono and Judith are taking advantage of that coal fired power input to contribute theirs from their plastic keyboards!

    Shameful? No, just typical. Part of the problem masquerading as part of the solution.

  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58469238

    Same this morning Martin – and it is now sunny with PV providing around 10% of our electricity.

    Wind & coal exactly the same at just under 3% each. Gas 48% even though they are trying to minimise it’s use due to escalating wholesale prices caused by high European / Global demand.

    What happens in 2025 when coal is shut down completely – yes, we will burn more gas…..

  4. Yes, Paul, and the companies involved will make good returns and the pensioners will lose out! Unless, they have decided to take control of their own pensions.

    Perhaps the richest man in the world, Mr. Musk, will put his hand in his pocket and compensate them? (Doubt that, no sign of compensation for lost schooling in DRC or health issues created.)

    Or, perhaps, they could find another Cash for Ash scam to invest their pensions in?

    No end of greed within the renewable sector. Plenty of choice.

  5. Do you guys promoting this industry ever stop to consider what it’s going to cost in terms of flood & fire damage, crop failure, mass migration, etc, etc, etc? And, I do mean ££££ and $$$$, as well as lives.

    • Not promoting anything alex9391 – just stating facts. Happy to listen to how you would solve this issue of finding something reliable to replace fossil fuels? We could all stop using electricity when it’s not windy and dark?

  6. If the medication is killing you, it’s a good idea to stop taking it and look for another. The fact that I don’t like the alternatives proposed, because for example they are too expensive, is not a good reason for continuing to take the medication. In fact, it’s a b****y stupid reason and to follow it would void the argument rather quickly. Think, for heaven’s sake.

    • When you think, 1720, and stop using the products you want others to stop using, then I may be impressed. But, you continue to use the products from fossil fuel and commented a while ago you would continue to do so as there was nothing else available. Hoisted by your own petard, I believe it is called. You are continuing to take the medicine.

      There is no special concession for activists, especially those using energy in the night, adding to the requirement so a coal fired power station has to be put on line. Quite simply, it demonstrates the hypocrisy of the “do something” brigade. When that is examined, much of the something-if ever defined- has problems that are just dismissed or unknown by those who advocate. Then, they seem to be exempt from doing something, other than protesting and causing as much inconvenience as possible with the excuse that attention is sought. Well, there is plenty of attention, there is COP 26, the same method will not work for engagement and is now showing that. I already hear many younger people stating they have lost interest in the subject as they are fed up with a bunch of clowns wasting their taxes.

      There are many people in this country who do not have the luxury of moving to more expensive alternatives, with real problems even affording the cheaper options, some of which are now not as cheap as they carry extra cost to allow the more expensive alternatives to be less expensive than they should be! Be careful, the antis are very scared about letting that one out of the bag, and that approach will also stop large chunks of the population engaging in the issue, as it shows the opposite of consideration for humanity.

      I watched the poor souls being flown out of Afghanistan. I happen to believe the aviation fuel was a good medicine. Your alternative of staying put and being killed, is poison, not medicine.

    • It is because the alternative medication is not working. You could stop taking the medication and live without it – in this case very major black outs. It’s no use saying the alternatives are not being used because they are too expensive without telling us what these alternatives are, and demonstrating their viability, and their climate change reducing impacts. Adding “renewable” ethanol to our petrol (E10), biomass electricity generation (AKA DRAX) are now being shown to be not renewable at all with significant impacts on climate change. All pushed for by the green agenda but now a lot of back peddling…wind and PV limitations are obvious, geography limits hydro etc.

      Storage / batteries on a major scale – are probably the answer but we have a long way to go.

      • Alternative medications are in the process of development, Paul, and this must continue unhampered by pushing or promoting the one that’s killing me. Mistakes will be made, paths leading nowhere will be followed, erroneous solutions will be proposed during this search. However, the medication I have to stop taking is the one that doctors have discovered is killing me. I can say this without suggesting which way the doctors should look: I’m not qualified.

        • There is a flaw within that argument.

          There is no reason at all that the use of fossil fuel will hamper any other development. Indeed, it will act as a control to make sure less mistakes and erroneous paths are followed. Competition is good at that. Governments and activists are not. They are transient and will have vanished when the brown matter has hit the fan. Anyone see any redress regarding Cash for Ash? Not even much of an apology.

          Meanwhile, that aviation fuel will continue to be required. I prefer it is made in UK, and is secure for when required, to help humanity that needs help. And, if that can be done without having to bring more than necessary from over the horizon and adding to emissions via transport by so doing, and producing more aviation fuel to secure those routes, then it doesn’t need qualifications. It is a no brainer. When people start to think rather than panic, that is pretty evident.

  7. Crop failure??

    Hmm. A standard one but what drives most of the agriculture in the world-fossil fuel!

    As Paul indicates, I see no replacement within agriculture to adequately replace fossil fuel and feed the ever growing world population.

    And, when there are natural disasters why is that the death toll is much less than it used to be? Because fossil fuels are available to rescue and rebuild. Electricity provision is usually the first thing to suffer within natural disasters, and they have happened since the world began.

    I have no reason to promote “this industry” but those who continue to benefit from fossil fuel, like yourself Alex, and fail to produce a coherent alternative that adds up for many in the world, will find that many will only be convinced of alternatives that work for them and make a real difference. There are billions who do worry that if there are floods, earthquakes, storms, mudslides etc. that they will be rescued and helped and know they will not stop just because fossil fuel runs out, or is excluded.

    It is a fact that coal fired power generation has been restarted to fill an energy gap in UK. That is happening. What would you prefer? That energy is not generated and babies in incubators suffer? One day, the maths. of renewable energy may add up, but they don’t currently, and will not for many years to come. To claim otherwise, is IMO not compatible with any caring approach towards humanity, and usual suspects have vanished when there are people desperate for help and support and food.

  8. Your argument, Martin, seems to be: “we need fossil fuels to deal with the mayhem of “natural” disasters caused by burning fossil fuels.” Interesting business plan!

  9. Yes, Alex, the proponents of this approach are working on the vaccine principle – inject a little more of the virus and we have immunity. It doesn’t quite work with global heating caused by fossil fuels, does it? I think even government is beginning to realise this despite dogmatic hostility.

    • Interesting!

      Perhaps a little more research on vaccines required, also.

      I wonder, constantly, why so many post incorrect information on this site and then expect others to consider their contributions represent reality. Not an attack, just an observation.

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