Councils urged to drop pension investments in fossil fuels

Campaigners from across the UK called today for councils to divest their pension funds from fossil fuels.

Protests outside Derbyshire County Council in Matlock, 3 November 2021. Photo: Maddy Winters

A day of action coinciding with a finance focus at the COP26 climate talks saw protests in the host city, Glasgow.

Divest Strathclyde held a 70s themed demonstration to mark 50 years of oil extraction from the North Sea. The group estimates that the Strathclyde pension fund, managed by Glasgow City Council, has about £800 million investment in fossil fuels.

70s-style protest in Glasgow, 3 November 2021. Photo: Divest Strathclyde

Campaigners in Manchester dressed in pyjamas and rang alarm clocks to urge the mayor, Andy Burnham, to “wake up” to the climate crisis and put pressure on the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to divest. This fund is estimated to have more than £1 billion invested in fossil fuels, the largest sum of all local authority funds.

A protest was held outside the office of mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, 3 November 2021.
Photo: Brian Stark/Friends of the Earth

Actions were also held in Edinburgh, Bradford and Derbyshire.

Divest Lothian protest in Edinburgh, 3 November 2021.
Photo: Colin Hatterley Photography/Friends of the Earth Scotland
Divestment protest in Bradford, 3 November 2021. Photo: Neil Terry

The organisers, Friends of the Earth and the campaign group, Platform, said local authorities must do more to champion the fight against climate change. They estimated that council pension funds had invested about £10 billion in fossil fuel companies, which they accuse of fuelling the crisis.

Isla Scott, of Divest Strathclyde, said:

“Fossil fuel companies have known that their activities damage the climate since the 1970s. Yet instead of changing course they have pushed the fossil fuel frontier, demanding more pollution for profit.

“As host city of COP26, Glasgow should be calling out fossil fuel polluters, instead they’re backing them. While the City makes grand claims about going fossil free its pension fund is still pouring hundreds of millions into financing the very companies who are driving the climate crisis.

“Pension fund members, councillors and all of us should support the Strathclyde Pension Fund actually divesting from climate-destroying companies and instead investing in a sustainable future.”

Rianna Gargiulo, divestment  campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Councils must play their part in protecting the long-term future of their employees by ending their support for gas, coal and oil, and investing in building a cleaner, safer future for us all.”

Robert Noyes, of Platform, said:

“Every day that we put off divesting from fossil fuels, we keep pouring billions into companies’ harmful operations.

“With climate action more popular than ever, it is no longer acceptable for local authority pension fund managers to provide polluters cover from the kinds of policies needed to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees by staying invested.

“With the eyes of the world on the UK, forget climate leadership – it’s time for climate catch-up and a permanent end to fossil fuel finance from UK institutions.”

DrillOrDrop’s reporting at COP26 has been made possible by donations by individual readers

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