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UK local pensions hold almost £10bn in fossil fuels

written by Bella Palmer

The results of the freedom of information requests, which pertained to investments held in the 2019/20 financial year, have been published by Friends of the Earth and Platform

Freedom of information requests by environmental campaigners have revealed that UK local government pensions held almost £10bn in fossil fuel companies last year. This is despite the trend towards climate emergency declarations.

The results of the requests, which pertained to investments held in the 2019/20 financial year, have been published 23 February by Friends of the Earth and Platform.

The organisations sent requests to 98 local authorities, with 85 of them providing information. In total, these 85 councils held £9.9bn of investments in fossil fuels through their pension schemes – the equivalent of £1,450 for each person accessing a local government pension scheme in the UK.

The three local authority pension funds with the largest investments in fossil fuels include councils representing Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Strathclyde. Collectively, they represent 20% of the investments analysed in the report. In terms of the highest percentage of their respective assets invested, the top three areas represented are Teesside, Dyfed and Dorset.

As for the fossil fuel firms financed, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and BHP account for 40% of all direct investments.

The report does praise the many local authorities that have either already divested fully from fossil fuels or have public commitments to do so. These include Southwark, Islington, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, and Cardiff councils.

But, it urges the rest of the local authorities in the UK to follow suit – particularly if they have made a climate emergency declaration, as three in four have.

Declaring a climate emergency may garner good headlines but too often it seems to stop there, Friends of the Earth divestment campaigner Rianna Gargiulo said.

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, Gargiulo said.

Gargiulo said that 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.


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