Should Council Pensions Support Polluting Fossil Fuels?

March 12, 2018 12:16 PM
By Cllr Lucy Care

Back in 2005 Derby City Council was ground-breaking. We were one of the first Councils to embrace the need to address climate change.

The then leader of the Council decided that a good way to spread awareness of the importance of tackling climate change was for staff to see the newly released Al Gore film 'An Inconvenient Truth'. In rather different times, there has not been the same level of engagement in Al Gore's second film - 'An Inconvenient Sequel'. Times are different and this has not made the same impact - although the urgency for action is clearly growing.

We've recently had unseasonably cold weather, reflecting changing weather patterns. Flood risk is increasing as extreme weather becomes more likely. We're adapting with major investment like the Our City Our River scheme to reduce flooding from the River Derwent. But all the predictions say that the impact of climate change will only get worse.

We know what we need to do. Cut human climate emissions, much of which is carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. We need to look to renewables and leave fossil fuels in the ground, not search for more with fracking, including in Derbyshire. But investment in change is too slow.

It's easy to say "I can't do anything. I'm just one person. My action won't make any difference."

But when it comes to pension funds it's different. Pensions are for the long term. They should be looking ahead. How the billions of pounds in pension funds are invested can make a difference. We should be ensuring that these investments are working with us, not against us.

The Pension Fund covering Derby and Derbyshire councils reportedly has more than a quarter of a billion pounds - over £250 million - invested in companies majoring in fossil fuels. This sort of money talks, and we need to make it talk for us. All of us, whoever we are, wherever we live across the globe. Climate change concerns us all.

There had been a suggestion that pension funds could only consider financial issues in their deliberations, but a High Court decision last summer overturned this view. There is nothing to stop the Pension Committee reviewing its priorities if it chooses.

We're not alone in thinking the time has come to change where money is invested. Universities, faith groups and more are taking action. As more money comes out of fossil fuels and into sustainable alternatives there will be a growing risk of keeping one's money in fossil fuel. We don't want our fund to be caught holding worthless assets.

We can't tell the pension committee what to do, but we can ask it to think again - and that is what I'm asking. Let's take the council's pension fund investments away from polluting fossil fuels.