Call on North Yorkshire pension fund to break away from fossil fuel companies

ENVIRONMENTALISTS has called on a 98,000-strong pension fund to consult with its members on whether it should immediately offload its investments in fossil fuel companies, saying it is making the fund’s past and present contributors complicit in financing the planet-destroying industries.

While the North Yorkshire Pension Fund, which is managed by councilors in North Yorkshire and York, has among the lowest proportions of its investments of any oil, gas and coal related local government pension fund unless of 1%, Fossil Free North Yorkshire says it ignores the wishes of its members.

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In addition to former and current public sector workers, the fund receives contributions from workers at 160 companies.

His investments have been very successful over the past three years, generating over £1bn, leaving him 124% funded.

A Friends of the Earth report last year found that despite declines in recent years, UK local government pensions held £9.7billion of investments in fossil fuel companies over the past year. financial year 2019/20.

The report found that neighboring North Yorkshire pension funds in West Yorkshire and Teesside were among the top four in the country for having the largest investments in fossil fuels and the highest percentage of their assets invested in, respectively. fossil fuels.

Richard Tassell, of Fossil Free North Yorkshire, told a fund committee meeting at County Hall in Northallerton that the UN secretary-general said in February the world had just 30 months to begin change radicals.

Mr Tassell, a former member of staff at York and North Yorkshire authorities, said the fund with £4.9billion in assets had worked to invest more in renewable energy companies, which was “a wholly inadequate response to the scale of the crisis we are facing”.

He told the committee: “We are asking the board to actively and urgently consider divesting of the fossil fuel investments currently held by our pension fund and seek reinvestment in renewable projects.

“Russia’s Ukrainian invasion has highlighted the precarious nature of Western countries’ energy supplies and, in the face of the evolution of renewable energy over the past five years, to such an extent that this technology is cheaper than the coal, gas and oil.

“We need to move away from these fuels quickly.”

He called on the committee to set specific, time-bound targets for ending fossil fuel investments and to consult with all members of the pension fund.

A spokesperson for the committee did not respond to any of the calls, but said cutting investment in fossil fuel companies immediately could make climate change worse.

The spokesperson told the meeting that the fund had reduced its fossil fuel holdings in recent years to less than 1%, which was “very small compared to almost all other local authority funds”.

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He added: “We have taken the view that we favor engagement rather than divestment from oil and gas companies, the reason for this is that we believe that through engagement we can influence the direction of the journey of these companies towards a low-carbon economy.

“We also believe that if we were to sell the shares, they would be more likely to be acquired by investors who do not hold these responsible investment beliefs to heart.”

He said the committee had been quite ambitious in terms of investing in low-carbon investments and renewable investments, but one of the challenges was the amount of viable renewable energy opportunities and the number of investors looking for these opportunities.

Councilor John Weighell, chairman of the committee, told Mr Tassell: ‘I think the main difference between us may not be the end result, but the timing.

“We will get to the position you want, but not as quickly as you would like.”

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Dolores W. Simon