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’

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Bradford councillors and candidates pledge to divest Local Government Pension scheme from fossil fuels to tackle climate change

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Supporters of the Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaign: Labour Party Bradford Councillors Mohammed Amran, Carol Thirkill, Fozia Shaheen and Bev Mullaney

11 current councillors plus a further 12 candidates standing for election to Bradford council on Thursday 3 May, covering 16 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.”

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Councillor Kevin Warnes (Green Party)
Councillor Martin Love (Green Party)
Councillor Martin Love (Green Party)

Details of which candidates have signed and their reasons can be seen on the website https://fossilfreewypf.wordpress.com/fossil-free-pledge-for-candidates-in-may-2018-elections/  The current councillors (not candidates) who support the pledge are: Cllr Martin Love and Cllr Kevin Warnes (Green, Shipley), Cllr Bev Mullaney and Cllr Sue Duffy, (Labour, Thornton and Allerton), Cllr Fozia Shaheen, (Labour, Toller), Cllr Mohammed Amran, (Labour, Heaton) and  Cllr Carol Thirkill, (Labour, Clayton and Fairweather Green). Councillors who are candidates this year who support the pledge are Cllr Hawarun Hussain, (Green, Shipley), Cllr Nazam Azam, (Labour, City), Cllr Richard Dunbar (Labour, Thornton and Allerton) and Cllr Nussrat Mohammed, (Labour, Heaton).

Richard Dunbar, standing for re-election in Thornton and Allerton said, ‘I acknowledge the existential threat posed by climate change and this is why I am signing the fossil free pledge. We need to do everything we can to protect our planet and a key way in which we can do this is to stop our economy being overly dependent on fossil fuels. We need to collectively do more to move towards cleaner and renewable energy. Divesting away from fossil fuel companies not only makes environmental sense but it also makes economic sense a stated by the Governor of the Bank of England. The bottom line is that if we are to protect our planet for future generations then we need to take decisive action and divest now.

Darren Parkinson, candidate for the Green Party in Wyke added ‘I fully support Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Funds campaign. Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet and its people. Divesting from fossil fuel companies is one of many actions that we need to take to stop the climate crisis.”

Sarah Dawson from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said, ‘The fact that 11 current councillors and a further 12 candidates have signed the pledge to divest the council pension fund from fossil fuels shows that people recognise the vital importance of this issue. 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, as candidates state, 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 urge voters to look at which of the candidates standing in their ward have signed the pledge and to vote for them’

Imran Hussain MP supports West Yorkshire Pension Fund divestment petition

IMG_0123 (2)(1).JPGAs scientists make the link between last week’s extreme weather conditions and manmade climate change (1) MP for Bradford East Imran Hussain pledged his support for a local campaign working towards transition to the low carbon economy. Imran has signed the Divest West Yorkshire Pension Fund petition, calling on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to ‘divest’ its fossil fuel investments. (2)

Mr Hussain joins over 1200 local residents, 4 other West Yorkshire MPs, and recently the Shipley constituency Labour party who are urging the Fund to show leadership both on tackling climate change and to protect members of the pension fund. The petitioners are demanding that the fund upholds its “fiduciary duty” and takes the financial risks of climate change seriously by ditching its fossil fuel investments. This is in order to protect pensions from what Mark Carney, Governer of the Bank of England has said is the risk of ‘stranded assets’ in the form of ‘unburnable’ coal, oil and gas. (3)

Shipley Labour fossil free pic (2).jpg

Vick Jenkins, council candidate for Labour in the Shipley ward said, ‘We in Shipley Labour party are proud to support this campaign. It is increasingly clear that investments in fossil fuel companies are incompatible with the UK government’s commitments under the Paris climate change agreement to limit global temperatures to “well below” 2C. We should be investing in the future and our local communities via infrastructure such as housing, energy efficiency or renewable energy to help the transition to a low carbon economy.’

Mac Price from Fossil Free West Yorks said: “We thank Imran Hussain and Shipley Constituency Labour party for showing strong climate leadership and we welcome them to the fastest divestment movement in history, recognising the huge financial and ethical risks associated with fossil fuel investments. Bradford Council administers the Local Government Pension Scheme which currently invests over £933 million in fossil fuels. West Yorkshire Pension Fund last April acknowledged the risks to the Fund from climate change, and expressed its intention to reduce its carbon exposure. However without a timescale for action this intention is meaningless. We hope to hear more encouraging news from the Fund soon. ”

Jane Thewlis from Fossil Free West Yorks added “The arguments from West Yorkshire Pension Fund that they ‘engage’ with or talk to fossil fuel companies and will change their behaviour this way are not convincing. It is widely accepted including by the current UK government that the vast majority of known fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to keep us within safe climate limits. (4)  Recent analysis indicates that Shell and BP’s business plans would take the planet to 3 to 5 degrees warming, (5) which is highly risky for many of their investors as well as a massive threat to life. Decades of talking to fossil fuel companies has led to the grave situation we are in now (6) We need urgent political action to phase out fossil fuels.  In contrast to simply engagement or talking, divestment or action more often leads to governments changing the law, as illustrated by an Oxford University study which concluded that in almost every case divestment campaigns, including in apartheid South Africa, were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation.”(6)

 NOTES:

New York today, Bradford tomorrow…

New York Today, Bradford Tomorrow

 

Last Saturday, fossil fuel divestment campaigners gathered in Bradford to celebrate New York City’s decision to ditch its fossil fuel investments and called on Bradford council to do likewise. To celebrate the news, the campaigners  took to the streets of Bradford singing a fossil free version of Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ classic. [1]

New York City has announced earlier this month  that it is divesting its $191 billion pension funds of fossil fuels. Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, also announced that the city is suing the world’s largest oil and gas companiesfor damages caused by climate change in a two-pronged assault that he said is aimed at “standing up for future generations”.

Here in West Yorkshire, the Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaign is calling on Bradford Council, which manages the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, to follow New York’s lead and sever its ties with the fossil fuel industry. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund invests £933 million in fossil fuel assets.

Notably, West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s largest fossil fuel investments are in BP and Royal Dutch Shell [2], two of the five defendantsin New York City’s federal lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry. Bradford divestment campaigners argue that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund is putting pensioners’ money at an unacceptable risk by continuing to invest in these, and other, fossil fuel companies.

Deirdre Duff  of Fossil Free West Yorkshire explained that :

‘’The fact that New York City is both divesting of fossil fuels and taking a lawsuit is very significant. Fossil fuel divestment and litigation against the fossil fuel industry have the potential to reinforce each other in generating increased market uncertainty around the future of the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel stocks have been performing badly over the last two years; this is partly due to low oil prices but is also due to the uncertainty created by climate and divestment movements and the signing of the Paris Agreement. New York City’s decision – and the precedent that it sets for other cities –could add further to this uncertainty.’’

Economists, such as Jeffrey Sachs, believe that NYC’s divestment decision could catalyze further divestment commitments and provide momentum inthe shift away from fossil fuels. [3]

Jeffrey Sachs said;

‘‘Pension funds of other major US cities will follow, I think. New York is the neighborhood of the very big money managers. It’s a powerful, personal signal to them that they cannot keep funding the sorts of projects they have in the past.”

The share price of fossil fuel companies assumes that their fossil fuel reserves will be consumed. However expert analysis has found that the industry has around five times more carbon in these reserves then can be burned if warming is to be limited to 2 degrees as agreed by World Governments.

Julie Longden  of Fossil Free West Yorkshire added:

“Although the WYPF took steps towards acknowledging the financial risk associated with fossil fuel investments last year, this has not been matched by action to divest of fossil fuels. Our local councils have a moral responsibility to ensure that local authority pension funds are not fuelling life threatening climate change and a duty to ensure they are safe from the financial risk of stranded assets. New York City’s decision is a catalyst to cities across the world and we hope that Bradford will follow its example as a matter of urgency”.

Climate change is already causing thousands of deaths per year around the world. In West Yorkshire, air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion is also contributing to premature deaths; in Leeds alone air pollution is attributed to almost 700 premature deaths per year. [4]

New York will be the first of the US’s largest cities to divest and is one of group of global cities that have committed to ridding themselves of fossil fuel stocks, including Paris, Berlin, Sydney and Stockholm.

Notes:

  1. New York, New York
    Start spreading the news
    they’re leaving today (tell him friend)
    we want to be a part of it, New York, New York
    Our fossil free hopes, they’re growing each day
    And steps around the heart of it, New York, New York
    we wanna wake up in a city, that’s fossil free, with renewables king of the hill, top of the heap
    our small town blues, they’re melting away
    we’ll make a brand new start of it, thanks to New York
    if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere
    Thanks to you, New York, New York
    New York, New York
    We want to wake up in a city, that’s fossil free…

 

  1. WYPF top investments – https://gofossilfree.org/uk/fuellingthefire/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/11/new-york-city-fossil-fuel-divestment-spur-global-movement
  3. http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/leeds-climathon-produces-winning-solutions-for-air-quality/

 

Fuelling the Fire

New report reveals West Yorkshire Pension Fund investing £933 Million in climate-wrecking companies

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UK — National data released today (Thursday 9 November 2017) has revealed that West Yorkshire councils are investing £933 million in the fossil fuel industry through the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) [1]. Campaigners say the controversial investments threaten the climate and also represent an unacceptable financial risk to pension-holders.

The release of the ‘Fuelling the Fire’ report and data coincides with UN international climate talks taking place in Bonn, Germany, which the UK government is attending. It highlights the incompatibility of the UK’s climate action promises with continued investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners attended the WYPF Annual Members’ Meeting on 1 November 2017 in Bradford’s City Hall, where they asked questions about how the pension fund is managing climate risk. Ali Stopher from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said “It’s shocking to see our Pension Fund investing so significantly in such a financially risky and morally bankrupt industry. Earlier this year WYPF said they wanted to reduce their carbon exposure.  We want them to put a timescale on this that is consistent with the Paris Treaty target to keep the world’s warming to 1.5 degrees.”

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners and members of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund highlighting WYPF's Fossil Fuel investments
Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners and members of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund highlighting WYPF’s Fossil Fuel investments

 

Fossil free campaigners around the UK were supported this summer by motions in support of fossil fuel divestment for local authority pension funds at the national conferences of UNISON, the public service union, and the TUC. Cath Kinder from Kirklees UNISON said, 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.”

Ellen Gibson, Divestment Campaigner with 350.org added:

“With hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, wildfires ravaging southern Europe and flooding and drought destroying lives across the world – the impacts of climate change are hitting hard. Despite this, UK councils are still plowing billions into companies like Exxon, Shell and BP who have spent decades fuelling the crisis, and profiting on its back. “Climate change isn’t a problem for future generations – it’s happening now, and action has never been more urgent. Our councils, and all public institutions, must cut their ties with the fossil fuel companies responsible and divest.”

The data and online map released by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth ranks councils by their fossil fuel investments, and allows residents to see every company or fund their local council has invested in.

Full divestment commitments have so far been made by two UK council pension funds, with a further four making partial commitments [2]. The campaign to divest local council pensions has this year received backing from Unison and the TUC [3].

 

All aboard the Fossil Free ArkAll aboard the Fossil Free Ark – Fossil Free West Yorkshire film with data from #FuellingtheFire report: https://vimeo.com/241592222

 

 

 

NOTES

  1. To view the full national data set and for more information, visit: org/uk/fuellingthefire
  2. 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: org/commitments

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

Kirklees trade union plays key part in UK campaign to protect pensions from climate change

Kirklees Unison supporting divestment from fossil fuels
Kirklees Unison supporting divestment from fossil fuels
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”.

West Yorkshire councils’ financial links with fracking in Lancashire

Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaignrs at Preston New Road fracking site
Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners at Preston New Road fracking site
Campaigners from Fossil Free West Yorkshire have just returned from the site of controversial fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool, to highlight West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s financial links to the project. WYPF is the pension fund for the 5 local authorities in West Yorkshire, and has £20 million invested in Centrica [1]. Centrica has a 25% share in Cuadrilla’s fracking operations in Lancashire [2]. The WYPF has over £500 million invested in other fracking and fossil fuel industries.

 
Fracking is a relatively new method of extracting fossil fuels which has been halted or banned in many places around the world, including New York State, the Netherlands, Scotland and Wales. For the past 6 years Lancashire residents and others have been campaigning to protect their communities from fracking.  In 2015 Lancashire county councillors overwhelmingly voted to reject fracking but in 2016 the Westminster government overturned Lancashire’s decision to say “no” to fracking and now Cuadrilla is preparing to frack in the next few months.  
 
The Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaigners joined the ‘Rolling Resistance against Fracking’ at the Preston New Road site, which is going on throughout the month of July. They wore white roses to show Yorkshire solidarity with Frack Free Lancashire and called on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to drop their fracking – and other fossil fuel – investments.
 
Sarah Dawson from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said: “People in West Yorkshire might be shocked to know that their council pensions are linked to fracking. The UK Government recently acknowledged that up to 75% of existing fossil fuel reserves needs to stay in the ground to stay within safe climate limits [3]. We don’t want our money being used to extract yet more ‘unburnable’ fossil fuels or to potentially threaten the water supplies and health of Lancashire communities.”
 
Sarah added: “Investing in fracking is also a financially risky prospect and WYPF needs to consider their duty to protect the financial assets of their members and set a timetable to get their investments out of fracking and all fossil fuels.”
 
Notes
 
More on Fossil Free West Yorkshire: fossilfreewypf.word press.com