Campaigners from across the region converged outside West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) offices on Saturday 13 February to call on the local authority pension fund to learn the lessons from the recent floods and redirect investments away from the fossil fuels that cause climate change. The Fossil Free WYPF group were dressed as cleaners, with mops, dusters and brooms, with the message ‘Clean up the West Yorkshire Pension Fund: stop investing in fossil fuels’ and were joined by Bradford councillors Kevin Warnes, Richard Dunbar and Sue Duffy.
The Fossil Free WYPF group believes that the terrible flooding that hit parts of West Yorkshire and other areas on Boxing day, highlights the urgent need for divestment from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels creates the global warming that is changing our climate. Expert opinion is that climate change makes such extreme weather more likely.
The West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) has a legal responsibility to invest wisely on behalf of its members who work for local councils and other organisations. This means securing ‘the best realistic return over the long term, given the need to control for risks’. (1) The Fossil Free WYPF group point out that Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has warned recently, the potential losses from falling share prices for fossil fuel companies were ‘potentially huge’ as their reserves of coal, oil and gas become ’stranded’ as they cannot be burned if the world is to tackle climate change. (2)
Councillor Warnes commented “The hundreds of people across West Yorkshire who were affected by the recent flooding must be wondering why the West Yorkshire Pension Fund has over £671 million invested in coal, oil and gas companies”.
Jane Thewlis, Bradford resident and WYPF member added “If WYPF is serious about securing a prosperous future for pension scheme members, it must divest from companies like Shell and BP, whose products are making climate change worse and flooding more likely.”
WYPF could now begin to divest from fossil fuels to encourage the necessary rapid transition to a carbon neutral economy. Money released by phased divestment could be diverted to local renewable energy and energy conservation investments, creating local jobs and keeping money from the fund in the West Yorkshire economy
The Fossil Free WYPF group is campaigning for the WYPF to freeze its investments in fossil fuels and then carry out a managed programme of divestment over a five year period. (3)
Fossil Free WYPF are encouraging local residents to support their campaign by signing an online email for members and petition for residents: http://act.350.org/letter/divest-wypf/
The action was one of over 50 similar events happening across the country for Global Divestment Day.
(1) Law Commission, 1 July 2014, Is it always about the money? Pension Trustees’ duties when setting an investment strategy: guidance from the Law Commission www.lawcom.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/lc350_fiduciary_duties_guidance.pdf
(2) Mark Carney warns investors face ‘huge’ climate change losses, Financial Times 29.9.15
(3) Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund is part of the Fossil Free UK grassroots network, which itself is part of a growing international movement calling on institutions to divest (sell their shares) from fossil fuels to take action against climate change. http://gofossilfree.org/uk/about-fossil-free/