Fuelling the Fire

New report reveals West Yorkshire Pension Fund investing £933 Million in climate-wrecking companies

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UK — National data released today (Thursday 9 November 2017) has revealed that West Yorkshire councils are investing £933 million in the fossil fuel industry through the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) [1]. Campaigners say the controversial investments threaten the climate and also represent an unacceptable financial risk to pension-holders.

The release of the ‘Fuelling the Fire’ report and data coincides with UN international climate talks taking place in Bonn, Germany, which the UK government is attending. It highlights the incompatibility of the UK’s climate action promises with continued investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners attended the WYPF Annual Members’ Meeting on 1 November 2017 in Bradford’s City Hall, where they asked questions about how the pension fund is managing climate risk. Ali Stopher from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said “It’s shocking to see our Pension Fund investing so significantly in such a financially risky and morally bankrupt industry. Earlier this year WYPF said they wanted to reduce their carbon exposure.  We want them to put a timescale on this that is consistent with the Paris Treaty target to keep the world’s warming to 1.5 degrees.”

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners and members of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund highlighting WYPF's Fossil Fuel investments
Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners and members of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund highlighting WYPF’s Fossil Fuel investments

 

Fossil free campaigners around the UK were supported this summer by motions in support of fossil fuel divestment for local authority pension funds at the national conferences of UNISON, the public service union, and the TUC. Cath Kinder from Kirklees UNISON said, UNISON’s decision to divest shows that the big fossil fuel companies are not part of our future. Stranded fossil fuel assets threaten our pensions. Investing instead into clean energy, public transport, and social housing can revitalise our economy.”

Ellen Gibson, Divestment Campaigner with 350.org added:

“With hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, wildfires ravaging southern Europe and flooding and drought destroying lives across the world – the impacts of climate change are hitting hard. Despite this, UK councils are still plowing billions into companies like Exxon, Shell and BP who have spent decades fuelling the crisis, and profiting on its back. “Climate change isn’t a problem for future generations – it’s happening now, and action has never been more urgent. Our councils, and all public institutions, must cut their ties with the fossil fuel companies responsible and divest.”

The data and online map released by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth ranks councils by their fossil fuel investments, and allows residents to see every company or fund their local council has invested in.

Full divestment commitments have so far been made by two UK council pension funds, with a further four making partial commitments [2]. The campaign to divest local council pensions has this year received backing from Unison and the TUC [3].

 

All aboard the Fossil Free ArkAll aboard the Fossil Free Ark – Fossil Free West Yorkshire film with data from #FuellingtheFire report: https://vimeo.com/241592222

 

 

 

NOTES

  1. To view the full national data set and for more information, visit: org/uk/fuellingthefire
  2. Waltham Forest and Southwark Council Pension Funds have committed to phase out all fossil fuel investments from their portfolio. To see the full list of global divestment commitments, visit: org/commitments

Read more on Unison’s decision on Platform’s blog. View the text of the TUC motion – adopted unanimously – on the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website

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Kirklees trade union plays key part in UK campaign to protect pensions from climate change

Kirklees Unison supporting divestment from fossil fuels
Kirklees Unison supporting divestment from fossil fuels
Earlier this year Kirklees UNISON’s AGM voted for the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to join other pension funds around the UK by disinvesting the £500 million it has in fossil fuels and to reinvest it in a safe alternative. This decision was reinforced at the end of June 2017 when the union’s National Delegate Conference voted  unanimously to: seek divestment of Local Government Pension Schemes from fossil fuels over five years giving due regard to fiduciary duty’.
UNISON is one of the largest trade unions in the UK, and the primary representative for local government workers – whose pension funds are collectively worth over £200 billion.
Ali Stopher, who brought the Kirklees motion explained, The science is clear that we have to rapidly cut back on the fossil fuels we burn in order to maintain a stable climate.  Known fossil fuel reserves contain more than three times more coal, oil and gas than can safely be burned, but fossil fuel companies plan to use all these reserves and invest huge sums exploring for more. I am proud that Kirklees UNISON have stood up to protect our pensions and our planet by voting for WYPF to divest and that this action has contributed to the fantastic result of national UNISON now voting for the divestment of all local government pension schemes, which includes our West Yorkshire fund.”
Stephen Smellie, from UNISON Scotland, who brought the motion to national conference, said: Our priority always needs to be to ensure our member’s pensions are protected. We are increasingly aware that investments in fossil fuels are not only harmful to the environment but put the sustainable future of our pensions at risk. Unison will now extend our campaigns to develop alternative investment strategies to enable pension funds to divest from fossil fuels over a number of years”.
Cath Kinder from UNISON Kirklees said, “I was at the conference in Brighton and I am delighted with this result.UNISON’s decision to divest shows that the big fossil fuel companies are not part of our future.  Stranded fossil fuel assets threaten our pensions. Investing instead into clean energy, public transport, and social housing can revitalise our economy.”
Ros Gillan who seconded the Kirklees motion said, “We are gratified that Kirklees, in the best trade union tradition of standing up for what you believe in, has contributed to this historical decision which means we will strive to build a safer future, creating and sustaining jobs and maintaining pensions in a low carbon economy.  Our Unison banner says “the past we inherit, the future we build”.  It is no exaggeration to say that in climate change we have inherited the biggest threat to our future and the time to do something about it is now”.

West Yorkshire councils’ financial links with fracking in Lancashire

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaignrs at Preston New Road fracking site
Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners at Preston New Road fracking site
Campaigners from Fossil Free West Yorkshire have just returned from the site of controversial fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, to highlight West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s financial links to the project. WYPF is the pension fund for the 5 local authorities in West Yorkshire, and has £20 million invested in Centrica [1]. Centrica has a 25% share in Cuadrilla’s fracking operations in Lancashire [2]. The WYPF has over £500 million invested in other fracking and fossil fuel industries.

 
Fracking is a relatively new method of extracting fossil fuels which has been halted or banned in many places around the world, including New York State, the Netherlands, Scotland and Wales. For the past 6 years Lancashire residents and others have been campaigning to protect their communities from fracking.  In 2015 Lancashire county councillors overwhelmingly voted to reject fracking but in 2016 the Westminster government overturned Lancashire’s decision to say “no” to fracking and now Cuadrilla is preparing to frack in the next few months.  
 
The Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners joined the ‘Rolling Resistance against Fracking’ at the Preston New Road site, which is going on throughout the month of July. They wore white roses to show Yorkshire solidarity with Frack Free Lancashire and called on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to drop their fracking – and other fossil fuel – investments.
 
Sarah Dawson from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said: “People in West Yorkshire might be shocked to know that their council pensions are linked to fracking. The UK Government recently acknowledged that up to 75% of existing fossil fuel reserves needs to stay in the ground to stay within safe climate limits [3]. We don’t want our money being used to extract yet more ‘unburnable’ fossil fuels or to potentially threaten the water supplies and health of Lancashire communities.”
 
Sarah added: “Investing in fracking is also a financially risky prospect and WYPF needs to consider their duty to protect the financial assets of their members and set a timetable to get their investments out of fracking and all fossil fuels.”
 
Notes
 
More on Fossil Free West Yorkshire: fossilfreewypf.word press.com
 
 
 
 

All aboard the Fossil Free Ark

All aboard the Fossil Free Ark
People (and ‘animals’) from across West Yorkshire boarded a ‘Fossil Free Ark’ in Bradford City Park on Saturday 13 May, as part of ongoing calls for West Yorkshire Pension Fund, managed by Bradford Council, to fully commit to ditching its fossil fuel investments.. The campaigners invited Bradford Council and WYPF to get on board the #FossilFree Ark to escape the floods and extreme weather caused by climate change. The family friendly afternoon celebrated clean renewable energy sources such as sun, wind and wave power, and how the investments of our local councils and pension funds could help West Yorkshire sail into a clean, safe and prosperous future.
Fossil Free West Yorkshire
The WYPF has recently taken some first steps away from fossil fuels by recognising that climate change poses financial risks to pensions, and seeking to cut its exposure to fossil fuels which contribute to climate change. Jane Thewlis from Fossil Free West Yorkshire commented: “It is great news that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund has recently taken its first steps away from fossil fuel investments, but now it needs to set a firm 5 year target for divestment both to avoid the financial risk of exposure to unburnable fossil fuels and to protect West Yorkshire citizens and pension fund members from extreme weather.”
The Fossil Free Ark event was joined by Bradford Councillor Hawaran Hussain. Councillor Hussain commented: “Extreme weather from climate change is already affecting people around the world from the recent flooding in West Yorkshire to heatwaves in Pakistan and India. The UK Government recently stated that over 70% of known fossil fuel reserves cannot be burnt in order to stay within safe climate limits”.
Piers Telemacque, Bradford resident and former NUS Vice-President, also spoke at the event: “The clock is ticking as sea levels rise and we are seeing day by day the increased effects of climate change. Floods in West Yorkshire and vast changes to weather systems at the other side of the globe are not isolated incidents. People recognise the need for change. But most efforts are met with resistance from big corporations who have a vested interest in extracting fossil fuels, destroying the planet and making big money. We need a global solution on climate change, not next month, not next year but now.”
All aboard the #FossilFree Ark
The event included kids’ activities such as face-painting and making paper boats as well as a Fossil Free singalong. Some campaigners were dressed as animals ready to board the #Fossil Free Ark, holding banners saying ‘Save the Humans’.
The Fossil Free West Yorkshire events are part of a wave of actions across 42 countries on six continents as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation, calling on institutions to end their investments in fossil fuel companies responsible for blocking action on climate change. From the 5th – 13th May, hundreds of actions will take place around the world, including over 40 in the UK calling on local government, faith, health, cultural institutions, politicians and banks to show moral leadership and end their support for the fossil fuel industry. More information: fossilfreewypf. wordpress.com

Notes for editors



West Yorkshire Pension Fund
All England and Wales local authority pension funds had to produce new “Investment Strategy Statements” (ISS) by 1st April 2017, replacing the old “Statement of Investment Principles”. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s new ISS has added a section on climate change to its “Risk” chapter. This reflects the growing calls over the last three from the financial sector and NGOs that funds must assess and deal with the financial risks that climate change poses..
The new section 5.3 states:
“The fund recognises the risks and opportunities associated with climate change, and will seek to measure carbon exposure within the equity portfolio and reduce that exposure over time. The fund will continue to increase investment in low carbon technology and renewable energy in order to encourage and facilitate further progression toward a cleaner economy”.
 
 
Fossil Fuel Divestment
The divestment movement saw its beginnings in North America, Europe and Australia and has since become the fastest growing divestment movement in history.  
Global commitments to divest have already reached 710 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over US$5.5 trillion in assets under management.
As climate denialists take office and commit to regress on climate action in the face of increased climate impacts worldwide, divestment provides a tangible way for individuals and institutions to show leadership on tackling climate change.  
The Global Divestment Mobilisation marks a new turning point for the global fossil fuel divestment movement, which is now spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In the UK, over 40 events will be taking place as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation calling on local government, faith, health, cultural institutions, politicians and banks to divest from fossil fuels.

West Yorkshire Pension Fund takes first steps away from fossil fuels

Fight flooding go fossil free
For the first time, West Yorkshire Pension Fund has recognised that climate change poses financial risks to pensions, and has pledged to cut its exposure to fossil fuels which contributes to climate change.
 
The WYPF has added a section on climate change to its “Risk” chapter in its new Investment Strategy Statement stating: “The fund recognises the risks and opportunities associated with climate change, and will seek to measure carbon exposure within the equity portfolio and reduce that exposure over time. The fund will continue to increase investment in low carbon technology and renewable energy in order to encourage and facilitate further progression toward a cleaner economy”.
 
Reacting to the news, Chayley Collis from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said: “The WYPF’s commitment to cut the pension fund’s exposure to carbon is a very welcome first step. The pension fund has over £500 million invested in companies, like Shell, whose actions are fuelling climate change, which will increase the risks of more flooding here in West Yorkshire and heatwaves in Pakistan. We are calling for the fund to cut its investments in corporations who are putting people’s futures at ever-growing risk. This move by WYPF is a great start but we need to ensure that there is a timetable for divestment and that the pace of action matches the urgency of the situation.”
 
Fossil Free West Yorkshire  held a ‘Flashmob Dance for Divestment’ on Saturday 6th May as part of the Take Back Control Bradford event at Kala Sangam. The campaigners are also organising a family friendly event on Saturday 13 May at 2pm at City Park where passers by will be invited to get on board a ‘Fossil Free Ark’ and help West Yorkshire sail away from flooding and climate dangers into a safe and renewable future.
Flashmob for Divestment
The Fossil Free West Yorkshire events are part of a wave of actions across 42 countries on six continents as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisationcalling on institutions to end their investments in fossil fuel companies responsible for blocking action on climate change.
From the 5th – 13th May, hundreds of actions will take place around the world, including over 40 in the UK calling on local government, faith, health, cultural institutions, politicians and banks to show moral leadership and end their support for the fossil fuel industry.
 
 


Notes to editors:


West Yorkshire Pension Fund

All England and Wales local authority pension funds had to produce new “Investment Strategy Statements” (ISS) by 1st April 2017, replacing the old “Statement of Investment Principles”. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s new ISS has added a section on climate change to its “Risk” chapter. This reflects the growing calls over the last three from the financial sector and NGOs that funds must assess and deal with the financial risks that climate change poses..
The new section 5.3 states:
“The fund recognises the risks and opportunities associated with climate change, and will seek to measure carbon exposure within the equity portfolio and reduce that exposure over time. The fund will continue to increase investment in low carbon technology and renewable energy in order to encourage and facilitate further progression toward a cleaner economy”.
 
 
Fossil Fuel Divestment
The divestment movement saw its beginnings in North America, Europe and Australia and has since become the fastest growing divestment movement in history.  
Global commitments to divest have already reached 710 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over US$5.5 trillion in assets under management.
As climate denialists take office and commit to regress on climate action in the face of increased climate impacts worldwide, divestment provides a tangible way for individuals and institutions to show leadership on tackling climate change.  
The Global Divestment Mobilisation marks a new turning point for the global fossil fuel divestment movement, which is now spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In the UK, over 40 events will be taking place as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation calling on local government, faith, health, cultural institutions, politicians and banks to divest from fossil fuels.

1000 reasons for West Yorkshire to go Fossil Free

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Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners are celebrating the 1000th signature on their petition to the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) which calls on Bradford Council and WYPF managers to ‘divest’ from their £671 million fossil fuel investments.

The campaigners argue that there are strong financial, as well as ethical, reasons for the pension fund to take its money out of fossil fuels. Ali Stopher from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said: UK Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry Nick Hurd recently stated* in Parliament that ’70-75% of known fossil fuels must be left unused in order to have a 50% chance of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees’. The writing is clearly on the wall for fossil fuels and smart investors will be moving their money to clean, renewable alternatives.
Kevin Warnes, Green Party Councillor for Shipley and a strong supporter the Fossil Free WYPF campaign added: “I hope that we in Bradford will soon be following the examples of forward thinking local government pension funds like Waltham Forest and Southwark and pulling all investments from the fossil fuel industry. We have a responsibility to invest WYPF pension fund members’ money safely and consider the potential financial risk of ‘stranded assets’ from the fossil fuel industry”.
At a recent event in Bradford (https://fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/councillors-join-campaigners-to-call-for-action-on-flooding/) the Fossil Free campaigners also made links between flooding in West Yorkshire and the WYPF’s  fossil fuel investments. Ali Stopher added: “Climate change is making flooding in West Yorkshire more likely – our pension money should not be invested in companies whose actions are increasing risks to our security”.
The Fossil Free campaigners are keen to share the financial and ethical arguments for divestment through dialogue with WYPF officials, and will continue to grow the petition through street petitioning and events in West Yorkshire, including around Global Divestment week in May.

Our response to WYPF report

Statement from Fossil Free WYPF 4th November 2016:

The Fossil Free WYPF campaign is disappointed that the WYPF has interpreted the evidence on stranded assets as not requiring divestment action and is continuing its policy of investing in the fossil fuel industry.

However, we welcome the fact that we will be meeting WYPF personnel to discuss divestment and climate risk further.

Fossil Free WYPF comments on report to Bradford on WY Pension Fund divestment October 2016 – download pdf

Read the original WYPF report here.

Read Telegraph & Argus news coverage of the decision here.