Today we’re releasing new data analysis showing that UK councils invest £16.1 billion in fossil fuel corporations through their workers’ pensions. These investments are bankrolling the companies most responsible for climate change, like Shell and BP.
The councils with the biggest investments in fossil fuels – Manchester, Galloway & Dumfries, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Torfaen – all invest nearly 10% of their total pension pot into fossil fuel company shares.
You can check what your local council invests into fossil fuels using our interactive map here, email your councillor about this, or get in touch about supporting divestment campaigns through your union.
The message couldn’t be clearer
We’ve teamed up with 350.org, Energy Democracy Project, Community Re:Invest and Friends of the Earth to release the data to coincide with the UN annual climate conference that is happening right now in Bonn. We know that only 100 fossil fuel companies, like BP, Shell, or BHP Billiton, are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is what 5.6% of the UK councils’ pensions are invested into.
It is apt that Fiji holds the presidency for the conference as the country bears little responsibility for climate change but is extremely vulnerable to the sea-level rise and extreme storms that climate change is bringing. Last year’s super-cyclone Winston led to a state of emergency and 42 people losing their lives. During the Climate Conference, The Pacific Climate Warriors representing grassroots, frontline and indigenous communities from across the Pacific have come together under the banner ‘we are not drowning, we’re fighting’ to demand the end of the fossil fuel era in their Pacific Climate Warriors Declaration on Climate Change.
George Guivalu Nacewa, Fiji Climate Warrior attending the climate conference, says:
In the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not a debate, it is our reality. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We no longer have time to talk. Now is the time to act.
Two years ago, governments agreed the Paris Treaty to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees, but the actions of fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP are driving us far beyond this vital threshold. Halting the expansion of fossil fuels is a matter of survival for many communities around the world so the message to councils couldn’t be clearer.
What can council pensions invest into instead?
While the moral case for divestment is overwhelming, it can also be an opportunity for councils to reinvest in public goods, create jobs, boost local economies and drive the clean energy transition.
Strathclyde Pension Fund invested £10 million in Albion Community Power, that owns hydro stations with capacity to power 4,000 homes. Falkirk Pension Fund provided £30 million for a major programme of 190 new homes, including council housing, in the Forth Valley. Lancashire County Council invested £12 million into Westmill Solar Co-operative, a community owned solar farm.
Instead of risking pensions in an industry that is on its way out and driving our destruction, councils can invest in clean, just future we want.
Pension-holders and unions for divestment
In June, following a campaign by UNISON members that Platform supported, UNISON and the Trade Union Council voted to support fossil fuel divestment. Unison is the biggest trade union representing members of the the local government pension schemes. Its representatives sit on the boards that make investment decisions.
Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convenor in UNISON Scotland and National Executive Committee member for UNISON, says:
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. We have made progress with a few pension funds taking the steps towards divestment. We need to wake the rest up before our pensions are put at risk with investments that will lose value as governments take steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
We know we can win. Waltham Forest and Southwark local government pension funds committed to divest. The Environment Agency Pension Fund, Haringey, Hackney,and South Yorkshire will also cut their fossil fuel investments. This is just the start.
Three things you can do right now to push for councils to divest are:
- If you’re a member of a trade union – fill out this form to get in touch and hear about how you can push union-based campaigns for divestment
- Email your local councillors and tell them to divest now!
- Share this story on social media.
Fuelling the Fire is a joint project from 350.org, Community Reinvest, Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform.
Platform would like to thank everyone that donated their time to make this data release possible. It could not have happened without you!