Kirklees Council becomes third in the UK to officially support fossil fuel divestment
KIRKLEES, UK – Kirklees Council (West Yorkshire) has become the third in the UK to officially back fossil fuel divestment after passing a motion supporting the campaign last night (Wednesday 7th October). The motion, proposed by Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper, calls on Kirklees Council to make steps towards going ‘fossil free’ in its finances, as well as calling on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to ‘wind down exposure to the Carbon Underground top 200 fossil fuel companies over a 5 year period.’
Chayley Collis from Huddersfield Friends of the Earth who handed in a Fossil Free Kirklees petition with hundreds of signatures at the Council meeting commented;
‘Kirklees Council has shown great climate leadership and financial prudence by supporting the Fossil Free Kirklees motion and taking steps towards divesting its finances from fossil fuels. We are now calling on West Yorkshire Pension Fund to stand on the right side of history. It is the right decision both financially and ethically for WYPF to divest from fossil fuels as soon as possible.’
Data released last month revealed 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. Kirklees is one of the five local authorities (including Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds and Wakefield) that pay into in the pooled West Yorkshire Pension Fund. The research by 350.org, Platform, Friends of the Earth and others, found that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund holds the third largest fossil fuel holdings of all UK local authority pension fund and is investing at least £300 per West Yorkshire resident in fossil fuels
Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper who proposed the motion 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, the West Yorkshire Pension Fund needs to show climate leadership and go Fossil Free.’
The Motion states that Kirklees Council will use its influence to call on West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) to review investments in the fossil fuel industry. Specifically Kirklees will ask its representatives on the WYPF Investment Advisory Panel ‘to call on all Pension Trustees to exercise their fiduciary duty and to call for a review of WYPF fossil fuel investments in the light of climate risk posed by fossil fuel equities’.
The Fossil Free Kirklees motion acknowledges the moral and financial imperative for fossil fuel divestment, recognising that ‘80% of existing fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if we are to keep below the internationally agreed climate change goal of keeping below 2 degrees.’ It also notes that there is a ‘strong financial case for divestment, with recent concerns raised by the Bank of England about ‘unburnable carbon’ and significant financial risks posed by fossil fuel equities.’
Kirklees joins Oxford and Bristol City Councils in taking a lead and supporting fossil free divestment, joining 40 local authorities internationally such as the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund and Californian state pension funds. 450 institutions representing assets worth over $2.6 trillion globally have committed to divest, including universities, faith groups, health organisations and governments.
West Yorkshire residents and WYPF members who would like to join the local campaign to divest the WYPF from fossil fuels, can contact Huddersfield Friends of the Earth and the Fossil Free WYPF campaign via the website fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com.