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Today's story - council admits to fossil fuels investments

November 17, 2017 7:33 AM

In response to questioning (see below) Wiltshire Council has said that it will continue to invest in fossil fuel companies via its pooled pension fund, though it will ask the companies nicely and politely to not use the funds to stoke up global warming.

The council says its primary responsibility is to "deliver the returns needed to pay scheme members' pensions, and to protect local taxpayers and employers from high pension costs."

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A new report (http://gofossilfree.org/uk/fuellingthefire) shows that across the UK council-managed pension funds are investing more £16 billion in oil, coal and gas companies. These investments undermine local and national efforts to address climate change, and represent an unacceptable financial risk to pension-holders.

Wiltshire Council has been asked to clarify the extent to which it invests in fossil fuels.

Two years ago, world governments signed the Paris Agreement - pledging to curb emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. But the actions of fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP are pushing us far beyond this vital climate threshold.

Since 2015, the world has experienced the warmest year ever recorded and 2017 has brought devastating extreme weather events. Further extraction and burning of fossil fuels is not compatible with tackling climate change, and investing in fossil fuels is deeply irresponsible.

These investments also represent a financial risk to council pension funds. The value of fossil fuel companies is based on their reserves, and ability to burn them. But if global climate targets are going to be met, these reserves are 'unburnable' (https://goo.gl/EU3F95).

Leading financial experts, including the Governor of the Bank of England, have highlighted the risks of fossil fuels becoming 'stranded assets' and the danger which this poses to funds which continue to invest in them.
Council pension funds should be invested in the long-term interests of their members but they are not well served by risky investments which are driving climate change. Instead, councils could be investing in ways that benefit the local community - like renewable energy infrastructure and green social housing.

Fossil fuel divestment is a practical, legal and responsible way for pension funds to respond to climate change and address financial risk. Over 800 institutions around the world have made divestment commitments, including some council pension funds in the UK.