Trade unionists, Labour activists and pension holders challenge West Yorkshire Pension Fund at AGM

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Labour grassroots campaigners and trade unionists from across West Yorkshire joined climate campaigners from Fossil Free West Yorkshire at the WYPF AGM in Bradford (6 November). The protesters were calling for the fund to stop investing in coal, oil and gas companies.

The protest was organised by Leeds Trades Union Council, Leeds and Bradford Momentum, and supported by Labour councillors from Leeds, Calderdale, Bradford and Kirklees. Many of those attending the protest were pension holders with the WYPF. Eleven West Yorkshire MPs are also joining the call for the Pension to divest, including Mary Creagh, Hilary Benn, Naz Shah and Imran Hussain.

Andrew Scopes, Councillor for Leeds City Council, said:

”The WYPF needs to protect its funds from the potential financial crash caused by the impending ‘carbon bubble’ which financial analysts say will occur when fossil fuel demand peaks. Looking at the performance of financial markets non-fossil fuel funds can be seen to be performing at least as well as fossil fuel funds, which suggests that moving money from fossil fuels now will not adversely affect performance of the pension fund”

Sue Coatman from Leeds Momentum, one of the protest organisers said:

“We are calling on WYPF to divest from fossil fuels. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund is heavily invested in fossil fuel companies, with 3 of its top 5 investments in oil and gas companies. Fossil fuel companies are driving us towards climate breakdown. They use their money, power and influence to block every serious attempt to prevent a climate catastrophe. And our money helps them to do this. The WYPF must divest and publicly break their ties, for all our sakes.”

Richard Murgatroyd, Councillor with Kirklees Council said:

“A number of drivers, including legislation and technological developments, mean that fossil fuel demand could peak in the early 2020s. The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has been warning us about the threat of stranded assets in fossil fuels, because the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves will be ‘unburnable’.”

 

Notes

 

*Source:  Carbon Tracker: 2020 Vision September 2018 https://www.carbontracker.org/reports/2020-vision-why-you-should-see-the-fossil-fuel-peak-coming/

Rachel Reeves MP calls for Pension Funds to drop fossil fuels as climate action

Rachel Reeves, MP. 

20/7/2017

Rachel Reeves MP calls for action on the climate crisis as she joins 8 Labour West Yorkshire MPs calling on West Yorkshire Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels, as well as a cross-party group of over 200 current and former MPs that has called on the Parliamentary Pension Fund to phase out its substantial investment in fossil fuel giants such as Shell and BP, following growing concerns about climate breakdown.

Rachel Reeves has pledged her support for Fossil Free West Yorkshire [1], a campaign demanding that local councils stop funding the climate crisis via their pension fund by divesting from fossil fuels, the burning of which cause climate change. She has also signed the Divest Parliament Pledge, which calls on the Parliamentary Pension Fund to review and phase out investments in fossil fuel companies [2]. The call follows growing concern among constituents about the environmental, social and financial risks posed by climate change.

Rachel Reeves, MP said: “Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that urgent political action must be taken to reduce carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. This is why I support both Fossil Free West Yorkshire and the Divest Parliament campaigns to move investments of the pension funds away from fossil fuels and towards renewable technologies. I agree with many of my constituents: it doesn’t make sense for long-term pension funds to be investing in companies that aren’t committed to bringing about a clean energy future.”

Simon Campbell Skelling, one of her constituents who met Rachel Reeves to ask her to take action said: “The climate science is unequivocal: the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground to contain warming below 1.5 degrees. It is unacceptable for political leaders to be heavily investing in fossil fuels at a time of climate breakdown and I am very pleased Rachel Reeves agrees. We must invest in a world powered by clean energy – this will tackle climate change, create jobs and improve our health. We are delighted with the support from so many local MPs on this issue and would love to see Leeds council take action consistent with their claim that they are concerned about climate. Leeds council cannot say they are taking action on climate while at the same time paying the very companies who are driving climate breakdown.”     

If successful, these campaigns would see West Yorkshire Pension Fund and the Parliamentary pension fund joining the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, the New York State Pension fund, local authorities such as Waltham Forest and Southwark and two thirds of UK universities in committing to fossil fuel divestment [3].

 

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[1] https://fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com/

 

[2] Pledge text available here and full list of supportive MPs available here. The campaign asks the Pension Fund to ‘quantify, review and disclose its investments in carbon-intensive industries, engage in a dialogue with fund members and publicly commit to phasing out fossil fuel investments over an appropriate time-scale.’

 

[3] To date, over 1000 institutions across the globe – representing funds worth over $8 trillion – have made some form of divestment commitment. Full list of commitments available here.

Mary Creagh MP challenges West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s investment in fossil fuels

As campaigners from Extinction Rebellion call for meaningful action on climate across the world in London this week, and the heads of two major central banks have written a stark warning about the financial risks to the global economy of climate change, Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield and chair of the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, has added her voice to those calling on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to drop investments in oil, coal and gas companies such as Shell and BP owing to concerns about climate change.

The campaign has also been supported by 7 other West Yorkshire MPs: Alex Sobel and Hilary Benn from Leeds, Imran Hussain and Naz Shah from Bradford, Thelma Walker and Barry Sheerman from Kirklees, and Paula Sherriff from Dewsbury.

Mary Creagh joined the campaign after she was contacted by her constituent Yvonne Sibbald who expressed her concern about the increase in extreme weather across the globe because of climate change, and the massive loss of life, increase in migration and conflict that would result globally.

Yvonne commented: ‘We are delighted that Mary supports the campaign for West Yorkshire Pension Fund to divest from dirty fossil fuel companies which are causing the climate crisis we are in. There is still time to act, and with Mary’s support the campaign is stronger to protect members’ pensions, employer contributions and climate.’

Mary Creagh said, ‘

“We must alter course to avoid climate catastrophe and ensure our children are valued, nature is valued and our planet is healthy enough to support generations to come.

As young people march for meaningful action to support our environment, and councils as well as the Labour party declare ‘climate emergencies’, I am optimistic that we are beginning to acknowledge the need for change.

But we have a very small window in which to act. We must get serious about tackling this climate crisis and divesting from dirty fuels is an important step. I support Fossil Free West Yorkshire in working towards this aim.”

Chayley Collis from Fossil Free West Yorkshire added: “Across the energy industry investment is shifting from fossil fuels to clean technologies. It’s clear that fossil fuels will soon be history and so the smart thing to do, not just for our climate, but financially is to embrace the change and invest in the technologies that will be an important part of our future. Local government can lead the way by moving to an economy that puts people and our shared home first. We welcome Mary Creagh’s support, especially with her expertise on the environment and good reputation in the House of Commons “

 

The Fossil Free campaigners argue that investments in fossil fuel companies such as BP, Shell and Total are not compatible with the UK government’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2oC. This is based on research that says that to keep to the Paris Agreement most known fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground.

‘ZOMBIES’ MARCH THROUGH LEEDS TO HIGHLIGHT DANGERS OF GAS, OIL AND COAL

Dead against Fossil Fuels zombie slouch, Leeds

A  Hallowe’en themed march for climate action took place in Leeds today [Saturday 27th October]. Marchers took to the streets dressed as zombies, proclaiming that they were ‘dead against’ fossil fuels. The marchers were protesting against the fossil fuel and fracking industries and were calling on Leeds Council, West Yorkshire Pension Fund, Leeds University and Leeds MPs to end their investments in fossil fuel companies.

The fossil fuel industry is the leading cause of climate change, with just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions [1]. The marchers included parents, pensioners, students and several young children in buggies. It was organised by Friends of the Earth, Fossil Free West Yorkshire and ‘Dead Against’.

Dead against Fossil Fuels zombie slouch, Leeds

Deirdre Duff of Friends of the Earth said;

“The fossil fuel industry has five times more fossil fuels than we can use if are to prevent catastrophic, irreversible climate change. Despite this, the fossil fuel industry continues to explore for even more fossil fuels. Its business plans are incompatible with retaining a planet that is safe for human civilization”

Chayley Collis of Huddersfield Friends of the Earth said;

“The fossil fuel industry spends huge sums of money lobbying politicians and policy makers to promote climate misinformation – such as the myth that natural gas is a solution to climate change. In reality, we cannot afford to start any new gas, oil or coal projects if are serious about our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.  It is shocking that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund continues to invest in such a dishonest and dangerous industry. It is time to divest.”

Jane Thewlis, of Fossil Free West Yorkshire, said;

“I’m marching today for a fossil free world. It’s exciting that the price of renewables has dropped dramatically over the last decade. A renewable powered world can be a safer, cleaner, more equitable world. It’s time to make fossil fuels history – it makes neither ethical nor financial sense to invest in them today.”

Madeleine Vos, an MSc Sustainability and Business student at Leeds University said;

‘We are marching because the University of Leeds is still ignoring student voices calling for fossil fuel divestment. They still invest over three million pounds a year directly into fossil fuel industries, despite knowing the imminent dangers of climate change”

The fossil fuel divestment movement is growing rapidly. Institutions managing over 7 trillion dollars’ worth of investments have now committed to divest from fossil fuels. Local government pension funds, cities such as New York, universities, health organisations, churches and the country of Ireland are among those ending their investments in fossil fuels [2]

However West Yorkshire councils, such as Leeds and Bradford council, continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry through the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF). WYPF has £933 million invested in fossil fuel companies [3], including considerable exposure to companies involved in the global fracking industry [4]. West Yorkshire MPs, through their MP pension fund, are investing in fossil fuel companies such as Shell, BP and Total [5]. A number of West Yorkshire MPs have signed a Divest Parliament Pledge to the support the campaign for divestment of the MP pension fund.  Leeds university has over £3.5 million invested in the fossil fuel industry. It is expected to make a decision on whether to divest from fossil fuels this November.

Dead against Fossil Fuels zombie slouch, Leeds

ENDS

NOTES

[1] See https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

[2] For details of fossil fuel divestment commitments see https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/

[3] See https://gofossilfree.org/uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/11/Councils-Fuelling-the-Fire-Online-1.3.pdf

[4] West Yorkshire Pension Fund invests at least £513,639,500 in companies with fracking operations – as revealed in this report 513,639,500. https://gofossilfree.org/uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/09/03_09_18_FINAL-VERSION-divest-fracking-report-.pdf

[5] The MP pension fund has stakes in the fossil fuel companies BP (£ 7.33 million), Royal Dutch Shell (£6.6 million), Rio Tinto (£3.67 million) and Total SA (£2.93 million). For more information on this see https://gofossilfree.org/uk/divest-parliament/

Rise for Climate, Bradford – Saturday 8 September 2018

Rise for Climate Bradford 8 September 2018 - photo John Sargent

On Saturday 8 September Fossil Free West Yorkshire brought together campaigners from across the region for a vibrant musical action to demand that West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) follows the lead of New York and Ireland by cutting its investments in fossil fuels. The action was part of a global #RiseForClimate day of action for a Fossil Free world, and was one of over 530 actions taking place in 78 countries across the world.

WYPF has £933 million invested in fossil fuel companies [1], including considerable exposure to companies involved in the global fracking industry, as a national report highlighted earlier this week [2].  The Fossil Free West Yorkshire group is campaigning for Bradford Council, which manages the fund, to cuts financial links with the fossil fuel industry and is gaining growing political support from across West Yorkshire. Fossil Free West Yorkshire supporters include MPs from Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield including Imran Hussain, Naz Shah, Barry Sheerman, Alex Sobel and Thelma Walker. Fifteen Bradford councillors are supporting the call for fossil fuel divestment, joined by a growing number of councillors and organisations from across the region.  [3]

The campaigners are demanding that the local leaders ‘walk the talk’ on climate action by divesting from fossil fuels as well as taking the financial risks of climate change seriously.

Jane Thewlis from Fossil Free West Yorkshire commented:

“Expert analysis has found that around 80% of all known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if global warming is to be limited to 2 degrees as agreed by world Governments. Fossil Free West Yorkshire is calling on WYPF  to protect pensions from what Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England has said is the risk of ‘stranded assets’ in the form of ‘unburnable’ coal, oil and gas.“

The ‘Rise For Climate’ action in Bradford was celebrating New York and Ireland’s recent decision to divest from fossil fuels and demand that local leaders commit to building a fossil free world and divest the West Yorkshire councils’ pension fund from fossil fuels. Local street band the Peace Artistes added to the celebrations with lots of ‘razzle dazzle’ and their ‘irresistible blend of African, Salsa, Folk and Funk’. Speakers at the action included community activists, poet Sharina Lee Satti, writer and artist Razwan Ul Haq, and a number of young Bradfordians, who shared their powerful and inspiring vision for the future.

 

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Julie Longden from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said:

“We are saying to the West Yorkshire Pension Fund – managed by Bradford Council – that it’s time to follow New York and Ireland and do the right thing by protecting our pensions and moving away from climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

We’ve seen the devastating impact of climate change this summer with extreme weather in the form of heatwaves, forest fires, landslides and flooding across the globe. Climate breakdown is hitting the poorest the hardest and these impacts will spiral if we do not act now.  Despite this, West Yorkshire councils are ploughing millions into companies like Shell and BP which have spent decades fuelling the crisis. It is time the West Yorkshire Pension Fund cut its ties with the fossil fuel companies.”

The Peace Artistes

Notes

1.      Fuelling the Fire report: https://fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com/2017/11/09/fuelling-the-fire/

2.      Divest Fracking report: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/divest-fracking/

https://fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com/2018/09/03/new-report-reveals-west-yorkshire-councils-investing-over-500-million-in-fracking-industry/

3.      Fossil Free West Yorkshire supporters: https://fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com/supporters/

NEW REPORT REVEALS WEST YORKSHIRE COUNCILS INVESTING OVER £500 MILLION IN FRACKING INDUSTRY

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaignrs at Preston New Road fracking site

 

A national report released today has revealed that Bradford council and the other West Yorkshire councils are investing £513 million in fracking companies through their management of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund [1]. The news comes as the fracking industry is poised to drill for gas for the first time in seven years in the UK.

Public support for fracking is consistently low in the UK [2]. Numerous councils have voted against fracking development in their areas, but council-run funds remain invested in the industry [3]. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fracking has been effectively halted, but Councils there still oversee pension funds investing heavily in fracking companies.

Julie Longden, local campaigner from Fossil Free West Yorkshire commented:

‘‘It’s shocking to see Bradford Council and the other West Yorkshire councils investing pension funds into the fracking industry. Fracking threatens communities, destroys local landscapes, and fuels climate change across the globe. As this industry tries to get a foothold in the UK, it’s crucial that our councils take a clear stand against fracking and divest from the companies responsible.”

Sakina Sheikh, Divestment Campaigner with Platform added:

“The devastating fires and record temperatures this summer have brought the impacts of climate change home. Neither local communities or our climate can afford for the fracking industry to win. Our councils are providing everyday support to the frackers, it’s time to stop. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.”

The data is released by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth. It ranks council-run pension funds by their investments in companies involved in fracking. Full divestment commitments have so far been made by two UK council pension funds, with a further five making partial commitments [4]. The campaign to divest local council pensions has received backing from Unison and the TUC [5].

Fossil Free West Yorkshire will be holding a colourful Rise for Climate action in Bradford this Saturday 8 September demanding that Bradford Council and the West Yorkshire Pension Fund takes its money out of fracking companies – and all fossil fuel companies – following the example of New York and Ireland which have both recently divest from fossil fuels. The ‘From New York to Bradford: Rise for Climate action’ starts at 12 noon at Ivegate, Bradford, BD1 1SW and will be accompanied by local band the Peace Artistes.

 

NOTES

1. The analysis calculated that 55% of all fossil fuel companies are undertaking fracking activities – that’s 55% of all coal, oil and gas companies. It then calculated 55% of all West Yorkshire Pension Funds fossil fuel investments to arrive at the £513 million figure.

The most recent listing of West Yorkshire Pension Fund investments is here, including large investments in BP and Shell, which are both actively involved in fracking across the world.  http://www.wypf.org.uk/Member/Investments/InvestmentPortfolio/2018/WYPFValuation2018.aspx

To view the full national data set and for more information, visit: gofossilfree.org/uk/divest-fracking

2. See information in recent Drill or Drop article: https://drillordrop.com/2018/08/16/question-on-attitudes-to-fracking-dropped-from-government-survey/

3. See Drill or Drop for summary of recent council decisions on onshore drilling applications: https://drillordrop.com/rig-watch/

4. 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: gofossilfree.org/commitments

5. 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

Leeds Council candidates pledge to divest Local Government Pension scheme from fossil fuels to tackle climate change

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Fossil Free West Yorkshire Deputation to Leeds City Council with Simon Campbell Skelling, Dylan Brown, David Midgeley, Rosie Atkins and Mashuda Sheikh.

8 council candidates standing for election to Leeds council on Thursday 3 May, covering 7 wards, are calling on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to end its investments in fossil fuels in order to tackle climate change. They have signed up to this statement:-

“As is well known, burning fossil fuels is causing climate change, and to keep to the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees of warming most known reserves of coal, oil and gas will need to remain underground. The companies that are still looking for new reserves represent risky investments. Bradford council administers the Local Government Pension Scheme which currently invests over £933 million in fossil fuels.

This money could be better invested locally in socially relevant schemes and infrastructure such as housing, energy efficiency or renewable energy. West Yorkshire Pension Fund has acknowledged the risks to the Fund associated with climate change, and expressed its intention to reduce its carbon exposure. I favour an end to West Yorkshire Pension Fund investing in the financially unsound companies that are driving climate change.”

The candidates who support the pledge are: David T Corry (Green, Harewood), Ed Carlisle and Alaric Hall (Green, Hunslet and Riverside), Dylan Brown (Green, Kippax and Methley), Gavin Andrews (Green, Moortown), Chris Bell (Green, Morley South), Mick Bradley (Green, Otley and Yeadon), and Ali Aliremzioglu (Green, Rothwell).

David Corry, standing for election in Harewood ward said, ‘I regard the combatting of global climate change as a top priority. I am therefore fully in agreement with the statement above. For the same reasons I am against all fracking.

Chris Bell, candidate for the Green Party in Morley South added ‘It should be a priority to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and for the Council to hold investments that are dependent on the continuing use of these environmentally damaging energy sources compromises the integrity of their policy decision making.’

And Ed Carlisle said ‘I’m 100% happy to support this – a no brainer for our party’.

Chayley Collis from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said, ‘We are pleased that 8 Green party candidates in Leeds have signed the pledge to divest the council pension fund from fossil fuels. Councillors from other parties have written to us expressing their support for climate action which indicates the interest in taking this issue forward. Action on climate is urgent. We don’t want our councils investing in something that currently causes thousands of deaths per year, and that will lead to a refugee crisis far worse than we have now.  Furthermore, the financial risk is the reason many organisations are already ditching fossil fuel investments before they become worthless, and instead investing in clean healthy solutions for the future. We look forward to building on the interest sparked by the deputation taken to the council in March on this topic, with the newly elected councillors, and we urge voters to consider voting those candidates who have signed the pledge on 3 May’