Local governments have invested £9.7bn into fossil fuels through pension funds, according to new research.
A report by campaign groups Friends of the Earth and Platform found that despite 75% of councils in the UK declaring a ‘climate emergency’, many were still investing in fossil fuels during 2019/20.
West Yorkshire, Strathclyde, and Greater Manchester have made the largest local authority pension fund investments into fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels account for 3% of the total value of the Local Government Pension Scheme. For the 6.8m people using the local government pension across the UK, that adds up to around £1,422 invested in fossil fuels per person.
Of the direct pension investments into fossil fuels, companies BP, BHP, and Shell account for 40%. All three of these companies are among the 20 corporations that account for a third of all modern emissions.
Rianna Gargiulo, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
Declaring a climate emergency may garner good headlines but too often it seems to stop there. Councils can’t make a bold claim about saving the planet while continuing to invest in fossil fuels. Local authorities have the power and duty to ensure local workers not only have a pension for their retirement, but also a future worth retiring into.
Instead of stubbornly sticking with old systems of investment that worsen climate breakdown, councils should invest in renewable energy and social housing. These are the areas that benefit communities and households and are a better investment in every sense.
Campaigning for better
In light of this, Friends of the Earth and Platform are calling on councils to divest from fossil fuels and invest in projects beneficial to the environment and local communities.
Councils such as Cardiff, Lambeth, Islington, Southwark, and Waltham Forest have made commitments already to divest from fossil fuels.
Local councils are investing around £10bn in climate-wrecking fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP ? I’ve just asked my councillor to divest local pensions from fossil fuels and build a future worth retiring into. Will you join me? https://t.co/w9vBdZLjTQ
— Carol Lynn Selva (@Senoritagalesa) February 23, 2021
People can explore the specific fossil fuel investments for their local authority pension fund using Divest UK’s interactive dashboard.
Friends of the Earth has recommended local authorities invest in green spaces, infrastructure, and transport as the UK recovers from coronavirus (Covid-19).
Report author and Platform campaigner and researcher Robert Noyes said:
After a decade of austerity and the devastating economic impact of Covid across the UK, local councils can and should be using their pension funds to support local investment priorities.
Instead of making risky bets on fossil fuels, let’s channel the wealth in our pensions to local communities and build a better world beyond the pandemic. Whatever your stake in your pension – imagine what world you want to retire into – and push your pension to invest in it.
Featured image via Flickr/Rennett Stowe