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”.