Council workers’ largest union commits to divesting pensions from fossil fuels

Press Release 23 Jun 2017 anna
Full text of UNISON motion (pdf).
  • UNISON to “seek divestment of Local Government Pension Schemes from fossil fuels over five years giving due regard to fiduciary duty”
  • Local government pensions have £14 billion invested in oil, coal and gas
  • UNISON is the largest organisation representing pension-holders working for local government
The largest body representing local government workers in the UK, UNISON passed a motion that commits it to “seek divestment of Local Government Pension Schemes from fossil fuels”. UNISON will now promote to a five-year timeline for divesting “for all pension funds where we have members” from fossil fuels, “giving due regard to fiduciary duty”. As the largest union representing the pension holders, UNISON representatives sit on local government pension boards.
Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convenor in UNISON Scotland, who brought the motion to conference, said
“Our priority always needs to be to ensure our member’s pensions are protected. We are increasingly aware that investments in fossil fuels are not only harmful to the environment but put the sustainable future of our pensions at risk. Unison will now extend our campaigns to develop alternative investment strategies to enable pension funds to divest from fossil fuels over a number of years.”
Stephen Smellie speaking about the motion at UNISON’s National Delegate Conference.
The motion was heard at the union’s general conference in Brighton as proposed by Unison Scotland, Norfolk County, Camden and Southwark branches, and with amendments from Hastings and Eastbourne Healthcare branches as well as the union’s National Executive Council.
Local government pensions in the UK are worth over £200 billion and are heavily exposed to fossil fuel companies. An investigation in 2015 showed £14 billion invested in fossil fuels across local government pensions, with Greater Manchester’s pensions the most exposed with £1.3 billion invested (9.8% of its holdings).[1]
Mika Minio-Paluello, energy economist at thinktank Platform, who researched local government pension exposure, said
“We’re thrilled to see UNISON joining the divestment movement. UNISON’s decision to divest shows that Exxon and Shell have no place in our future. Stranded fossil fuel assets threaten our pensions. And investing instead into clean energy, public transport, and social housing can kickstart our economy.”
Local government pension funds have already started moving towards divestment from oil, coal, and gas. In 2016 Waltham Forest passed divestment policy, quickly followed by Southwark. Full and partial divest commitments already total £10 billion worth of local government pensions. Global divestment commitments total over $5 trillion.
Full text of UNISON motion (pdf).
[1] See full research results at
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