West Yorkshire Pension Fund has £671 million in risky fossil fuel investments

Mass data released today reveals that West Yorkshire Pension Fund has an astonishing £671 million* of public money invested through workers’ pension funds in fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP. Five local authorities (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield) pay into in the pooled West Yorkshire Pension Fund, alongside a wide range of other regional public institutions.

The research by 350.org, Platform, Friends of the Earth and others, shows that:

  • West Yorkshire Pension Fund has 6.5% of its pension fund invested in fossil fuels.
  • The WYPF is investing at least £300 per West Yorkshire resident in fossil fuels
  • Money is invested into multinational fossil fuel companies including £207 million in BP and £171 million in Shell.
  • With £671 million invested, the West Yorkshire Pension Fund holds the third largest fossil fuel holdings of all UK local authority pension funds.

Chayley Collis from Huddersfield Friends of the Earth, said:

“Council workers in the region, whose pensions are held with the West Yorkshire Pension Fund,  will be concerned to learn that their future is tied up with such a risky and polluting industry. When governments do act to prevent dangerous climate change, the business model for fossil fuel companies will be over, and that day is fast approaching. And, if oil and gas companies keep on drilling in their final days, it will make climate change far worse – it is the right decision both financially and ethically for WYPF to divest as soon as possible.”

This is the first time that the £231 billion of public money invested by local government pension funds has ever been broken down and released publicly, and their exposure to fossil fuels quantified.

80% of fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Consequently, there have been growing concerns about the long-term financial risks of fossil fuel investments. A recent analysis found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS & CalSTRS, incurred a combined loss of over $5 billion in the last year alone from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

This data, available at www.gofossilfree.org/uk/pensions offers members of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund the information they need to ask why the WYPF is choosing to invest in risky oil, gas or coal. Instead WYPF could reinvest this money into building new homes, clean renewable energy or public transport.

Chayley Collis from Huddersfield Friends of the Earth said:

‘Most WYPF fund members and West Yorkshire council taxpayers won’t be happy to learn that their money is funding climate change. We are calling on WYPF to stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”

Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper has put forward a Motion to Kirklees Council to go Fossil Free and encourage West Yorkshire Pension Fund to do the same thing. Andrew commented: “It doesn’t make sense for a pension fund that is all about providing a secure future for its members to be investing in companies that are threatening the long-term stability of the planet. With the forthcoming UN climate talks in Paris working to regulate global emissions, Kirklees and the WYPF need to show climate leadership and go Fossil Free.”

Oxford and Bristol City Councils have already taken a lead in making fossil free commitments, joining 40 cities internationally and larger institutions like the Norwegian Government Pension Fund. There are 389 institutions globally – including universities, faith groups, health groups and governments – that have committed to divest.

West Yorkshire residents and WYPF members who would like to join the local campaign to convince WYPF to divest from fossil fuels, can contact Huddersfield Friends of the Earth and the Fossil Free WYPF campaign via the website fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com

Sign petition: Divest West Yorkshire Pension Fund from Fossil Fuels

Sign petition: Fossil Free Kirklees

Notes

  1.  A full breakdown of the national data will be available from Thursday 24th September via the Fossil Free UK website
  2.  The fossil fuel divestment campaign is a growing international movement calling on institutions to divest (sell their shares) from fossil fuels to take action against catastrophic climate change. According to an Oxford University report it is now ‘the fastest growing divestment movement the world has ever seen’.
  3.  This data is released as part of an ongoing campaign through Fossil Free UK to secure fossil free divestment commitments from local governments. Fossil Free UK is a grassroots network, with all campaigning on local government lead by volunteer groups across the country.
  4.  A divestment commitment is a principled commitment to wind down exposure to the Carbon Underground top 200 fossil fuel companies over a 5 year period.
  5.  The data was sourced by 350.org, Community Reinvest and Platform through Freedom of Information Act requests to the 101 administering pension funds.
  6. The full data is being released at http://gofossilfree.org/uk/pensions/ This includes spreadsheets for each pension fund with a breakdown of investments.
  7. The briefing analyses the data and includes references and calculations for all statements in this press releases. It includes a Methodology explanation for the process of sourcing, collating and analysing the data
  8. The Local Government Pension Scheme is one of the largest public sector pension schemes, with 4.6 million members nationally.
  9. The 2014 Law Commission clarification on fiduciary duty concluded “that there is no impediment to trustees taking account of environmental, social or governance factors where there are or may be, financially material” and that environmental concerns may also be taken into account as a non-financial factor so long as there is there is no “significant impact on returns” and “trustees have a good reason to think that scheme members would share the concern.”
  10.  In March 2014, following a clarification from the UK Law Commission on the interpretation of fiduciary duty, the Local Government Association (LGA) (England & Wales) published a legal opinion on how fiduciary duties affected the scope for a Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), concluding that “the precise choice of investment may be influenced by wider social, ethical or environmental considerations, so long as that that does

* Please note: WYPF provides more data than many other funds – this extra WYPF data shows investment in fossil fuels of £759m, which is higher than the figure of £671m cited on the national Fossil Free UK comparison lists. For methodological consistency we are citing the lower figure of £671m when we are comparing WYPF with other local authorities in national league tables, as this figure was calculated in the same way as all the other local authorities.

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