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Pension fund invested millions in fossil fuel despite pledge

written by Bella Palmer

The West Yorkshire Pension Fund holds and invests pension monies in the region’s local authorities

Research by environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Platform has estimated the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to have invested a total of £174m in coal industries and just over £329m in oil and gas industries (more than 503m) as of April 2020.

The totals make up 3.81 per cent of the Fund’s entire £13bn investments and rank it fourth out of all UK council funding pots for most valuable investments in fossil fuels.

The West Yorkshire Pension Fund holds and invests pension monies for all public sector workers in the region’s five local authorities, and Leeds City Council is its biggest contributor.

The Fund is administered by Bradford Council, leaving Leeds with no direct decision-making powers but the issue of its investment in fossil fuels has been an ongoing point of contention for the city’s councillors - being at odds with their announcement of a climate emergency in early 2019, which saw Leeds commit to a net zero carbon economy by 2030.

Last month, Leeds City Council’s executive board approved recommendations made in a report by its climate emergency advisory committee (CEAC) calling on the Fund to stop investing in fossil fuels.

Across the UK, the research shows local authorities have invested nearly £10bn between them in fossil fuels through their pension funds last year.

Campaigners are now calling for these funds to divest from oil, gas and coal industries ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November.

Robert Noyes, an energy economist at campaign group Platform and a coordinator of pressure group UK Divest said: As we approach the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November, local councils have a simple choice.

He said: They can pay polluters to wreck the planet or they can play their part in the global climate effort by ending their fossil fuel investments.


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