Scottish councils are risking their pension funds by investing heavily in the companies most responsible for climate change, according to a new report published by Common Weal, UNISON Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland (1).
* Scottish Council Pension Funds have £1.7 billion invested in fossil fuels.
* Figure is unchanged from 2015-2016, despite historic Paris climate deal.
* Each pension fund member has equivalent of £3,300 in fossil fuels.
* Strathclyde pension fund, administered by Glasgow City Council, has £889 million invested in fossil fuels.
* Just £234 million invested renewables and social housing across all funds.
* Only 6 of the 11 Scottish councils who run pension funds have ever discussed climate change at board level.
* Four local councils pension funds in the rest of the UK have committed to cut their fossil fuel investments, questioning Scotland’s claim to be leading on climate change.
Councils invest in companies such as BP, who are fracking and drilling for oil in the Arctic as well as having a history of campaigning against subsidies for renewable energy, and BHP Billiton, the 12th largest extractor of coal in the world, currently mining in the centre of the Borneo rainforest and facing prosecution over Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster.
In contrast the report found that only three councils were found to be actively investing in socially and environmentally beneficial infrastructure. The Strathclyde, Falkirk and Lothian Pension Funds invest a combined £234 million in renewable energy and social housing. Although encouraging, this represents just 0.7% of the Scotland-wide scheme’s value.
Ric Lander, Divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland and report author said:
“Council pension funds have huge clout and can shape our future. It's time they used this power to invest in a future worth living in.
“Divesting from fossil fuels is an opportunity to contribute to a brighter future and put money back into local economies. That would be good news for fund members and good news for all of us.”
“With Scotland going to the polls for local elections in May we want to see prospective councillors getting serious about responsible investment.
“Only 3 councils have any investments in social housing and renewable energy in Scotland despite strong returns available and many local benefits of these schemes. The majority of council pensions are invested in stocks and shares, which bring few tangible local benefits.”
UNISON’s Scottish Organiser Dave Watson commented:
"Too many of our pension funds are investing in obsolete technologies and risking our members hard earned contributions. The future of energy is green, and it is within sight. Our pension funds need to be part of the future, not the past."
200 members of the pension scheme have signed a petition calling for divestment from fossil fuels. They have their reactions to this new report:
“What is the point in saving for a future that my pension money is helping to destroy? I want to, and believe I can invest in a future that invests in the planet.” - Jude Ferguson, Lothian Pension Fund member
“The Local Authorities need to rethink their commitment to climate change and if they are serious then they must divest, the fact that some haven't even discussed it is quite unbelievable.” - Louise McCafferty, North East Pension Fund member
"I am disappointed that more is not being done to divest from all fossil fuel companies. I would be pleased if Strathclyde would follow the example set by Glasgow University and commit to divest completely from fossil fuel companies." - Denny Walker, Strathclyde Pension Fund member
Five local government funds elsewhere in the UK have committed to cut their fossil fuel investments: the Environment Agency Pension Fund, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Southwark and South Yorkshire.
Across the world 701 institutions, with total investments valued at $5.5 trillion USD, have committed to divest from fossil fuels (3).
Fossil fuel investments by council pension fund:
Strathclyde / £889.8m
Tayside / £131.1m
North East / £124.1m
Falkirk / £119.6m
Lothian / £104.3m
Highland / £92.3m
Fife / £89.6m
Dumfries & Galloway / £70.5m
Shetland / £30.8m
Scottish Borders / £23.4m
Orkney / £8.2m
TOTAL / £1,683.3m
Notes to Editors
1.Read the report at http://reinvest.scot/resources/
2. A copy of the report along with free to use photographs and illustrations can be downloaded from this secure folder: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B5bUzYdi3IwUMTVRb2RyXzdBSFU?usp=...
3. The Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme is worth £34.7 billion and has 505,769 members across Scotland. 1 in 10 Scots are a member of the fund and the scheme’s advisory board estimates 1 in 5 of the population have a financial interest in the fund. Source: www.pensionsscotland.org
4. In Scotland the Universities of Glasgow, Abertay, West of Scotland and Queen Margaret, along with the United Reform Church, have fully committed to divestment, whilst the Church of Scotland, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities have made partial commitments. Full list of institutions who have divested is available at www.gofossilfree.org/commitments
5. Friends of the Earth Scotland is Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation, an independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland, and part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.
6. Common Weal is a Scottish think-and-do tank that proposes ideas and policies that put all of us first, for further information go to allofusfirst.org
7. UNISON is Scotland’s largest public service trade union representing over 150,000 members. We represent tens of thousands of members who work in the social care services, including many social workers, social service workers, those managing and working in children’s services, day care and residential care.