Heat on the city’s fossil fuel policy
Climate activists estimate 8 per cent of council pension fund is involved
18 October, 2019 — By Tom Foot
Climate protesters in Trafalgar Square
COUNCIL chiefs who declared a climate emergency have been urged to “put your money where your mouth is” and stop pouring millions of pounds into fossil fuel firms each year.
Statistics collated by the Campaign Against Climate Change show that around 8 per cent of the council’s pension fund – valued at £1.4billion – is invested in firms considered to be contributing to the environmental crisis.
CACC campaigns chief Claire James said the set-up was not “ethically justifiable” in a “world facing climate breakdown”, adding: “Nor does it lead to financial security for those relying on these funds for their pensions. The majority of fossil fuel reserves are unburnable if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.”
Westminster Council has set a target of making the borough carbon neutral by 2040 and has said it will encourage residents and businesses to be “cleaner and greener”.
Climate change and “divestment” – getting rid of stocks – have been kept high up the political agenda by protests by Extinction Rebellion in central London this week.
Protesters who had occupied Trafalgar Square last week were driven out on Tuesday. Roads have been blocked and protesters have glued themselves to buildings and trains.
More than 1,600 people have been arrested and there has been criticism of the government for showing double standards for the backlash against climate protesters.
Clare Mountfort, one of the XR group in Trafalgar Square, said: “On the one hand they are declaring an emergency, the next they are arresting hundreds of us. It’s the same with the pension funds investments, they need to put their money where their mouth is.”
The council is under pressure to show that its declaration of a “climate emergency” is not just a hollow phrase.
In a report to the council, Labour’s shadow environment chief, West End ward councillor Pancho Lewis, said: “Pensions should be invested in green funds. We note that Lambeth Council and others have already taken steps in this direction.”
Last June the pension fund committee, which is headed up by Cllr Antonia Cox, discussed new systems that have been put in place since the council’s former director of pensions was jailed for fraud.
More than £1million plundered by former council boss Ian Woodall has not yet been recovered.
The committee papers say that the pension fund managers have expressed concerns about an “over-reliance” on one investment fund that had “significantly higher exposure to carbon and fossil fuel assets”.
A spokesman for Westminster Council said last night (Thursday): “We regularly review the pension fund in line with our desire to be a greener council.
“There’s, of course, always more to do and we will be reviewing the fund following the announcement of our plans to be carbon-neutral by 2030.”