Statement from Fossil Free WYPF 4th November 2016:
The Fossil Free WYPF campaign is disappointed that the WYPF has interpreted the evidence on stranded assets as not requiring divestment action and is continuing its policy of investing in the fossil fuel industry.
However, we welcome the fact that we will be meeting WYPF personnel to discuss divestment and climate risk further.
Read the original WYPF report here.
Read Telegraph & Argus news coverage of the decision here.
Campaigners dressed for wet weather presented Councillor Hawarun Hussain and Councillor Kevin Warnes from Bradford Council with a symbolic pair of gold wellies on Saturday 15 October 2016. The action was to draw attention to the links between flooding, climate change and fossil fuel investments in the week that a Bradford council committee makes recommendations about West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s fossil fuel investments.
Bradford council manages the West Yorkshire Pension Fund which invests £671 million in oil, gas and coal companies, including BP and Shell. Campaigners from the Fossil free West Yorkshire Pension Fund campaign want the council to take action to prevent flooding and extreme weather and also protect members’ pensions by taking its investments out of companies causing climate change.
The Fossil Free campaigners cite a recent report by Oil Change International* which found that to meet the internationally agreed Paris climate goals new fossil fuel development needs to be stopped now and ‘kept in the ground’.
Usman Ahmed from the Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund campaign said: “West Yorkshire has already seen extreme weather events including the terrible Boxing Day floods we saw last year. Other parts of the world including Pakistan and Bangladesh are experiencing extreme weather episodes such as heat waves and flooding. Such events will only get worse if we do not tackle the root causes of climate change and stop digging for new fossil fuels.”
Usman added: “Bradford Council have taken an excellent first step by passing a motion to review the West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s fossil fuel investments. They can now take action against climate change, while also protecting the long term financial security of the pension fund members. The recent research from Oil Change International shows that fossil fuel investments are a bad investment. We call on the WYPF to take action against flooding and cut its risky fossil fuel investments.”
The council’s Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee will meet on 19 October to discuss this issue. Campaigners recommend the councillors follow the example of other local authority pension funds in the UK and consider a climate audit to assess the risk of WYPF’s fossil fuel investments.
Cllr Hussain and Cllr Warnes pointed out that Bradford council has examples of good practice for energy saving. For instance Shipley swimming pool, where the roof is covered with solar thermal and PV panels, the building is well insulated and the new boiler efficient. All of which means that the pool generates more power than it consumes at times in the summer.
* THE SKY’S LIMIT, Oil Change International September 2016
In December 2015, world governments agreed to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C, and to strive to limit it to 1.5°C. The Oil Change International report examines, for the first time, the implications of these climate boundaries for energy production and use. The key findings are:
- The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
- The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.
- With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs. One of the most powerful climate policy levers is also the simplest: stop digging for more fossil fuels.
The report recommends:
- No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
- Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
- This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.
In August 2015, just months before the Paris climate talks, President Anote Tong of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati called for an end to construction of new coal mines and coal mine expansions. This report expands his call to all fossil fuels.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has signed a petition urging the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to cut its fossil fuel investments. The Labour MP had previously supported the launch of the local fossil free campaign and has now put his name to the Fossil Free WYPF petition.
Barry Sheerman MP said:
“Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity and we now know that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change. Divesting from fossil fuels is one way our local institutions like the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, can help reduce the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry and speed up the transition to renewable energy. Divesting is also a financially prudent decision as it will protect WYPF pension fund holders from the risk of ‘stranded assets’ when the carbon bubble bursts”.
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.
Chayley Collis from the Fossil Free WYPF campaign said:
“Thanks to Barry Sheerman for showing great leadership in supporting the Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund campaign. We would encourage all West Yorkshire politicians to follow Barry’s example and get behind the campaign”.
Barry Sheerman is the second West Yorkshire MP to back the Fossil Free WYPF campaign, which is also supported by Naz Shah (MP for Bradford West). Fossil Free WYPF are encouraging local residents to support their campaign by signing an online email for members and petition for residents: act.350.org/letter/divest-wypf/
Fossil Free campaigners hit the streets of Hebden Bridge this Saturday 17th September dressed as cleaners demanding that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund drops its investments in fossil fuels and goes ‘Fossil Free’.
The campaigners, who come from across West Yorkshire including Hebden Bridge, are wanting to ‘clean up’ the WYPF (which is paid into by the 5 West Yorkshire councils, including Calderdale), calling on the fund to stop investing in dirty fossil fuels.
Chayley Collis from the Fossil Free WYPF campaign said:
“Divesting from fossil fuels is a powerful way to take action on climate change. We had a very positive response from passers by in Hebden Bridge and collected over 100 signatures for the Fossil Free WYPF petition. The West Yorkshire Pension Fund has over £671 million invested in fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Not only do fossil fuels cause climate change, they are an increasingly risky investment too. As countries start to make commitments to fight climate change, fossil fuel reserves risk becoming ‘unburnable’ stranded assets and pension money could be lost. WYPF pensions and our communities are at risk unless action is taken to divest from dirty energy”.
Fossil Free WYPF are encouraging local residents to support their campaign by signing an online email for members and petition for residents: act.350.org/letter/divest-wypf/
Members of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) have written to the fund to express concern that it is not providing enough information about how it manages the financial risks associated with climate change, including from investments in fossil fuel companies.
WYPF invests £671 million of its £11 billion total assets in fossil fuel companies, and a group of members wrote to the fund in March, expressing concern about risks to investments in such companies. Now, members are once again lobbying the fund, concerned that it has not provided enough information in its response. 26 members have added their names to the latest letter to the fund. They are from across West Yorkshire, including Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Leeds.
The letter says, “Whilst it is apparent … that the fund is taking some positive steps towards assessing and addressing climate risk, we nevertheless feel that not all of the questions we asked in our letter have been answered.”
The letter requests that the fund assesses the financial risks that climate change could pose to its portfolio. It says the fund could follow the lead taken by the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, which recently took the decision to engage a specialist contractor to conduct a carbon audit of its portfolio.
The campaign to raise awareness of the scheme’s investments in fossil fuels began last September. Members believe it does not make sense to invest pensions in fossil fuels which are causing climate change, which if unchecked will cause massive problems worldwide and well into the future.
There have also been numerous warnings from the financial community that investments in high-carbon industries will prove financially risky in the future, as regulation limits the amount of carbon that can be burned. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said that investors face “potentially huge” losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas “literally unburnable”.
Members have been supported by responsible investment charity ShareAction, which helps pension savers get into a dialogue with their pension funds about such issues, and environmental law firm ClientEarth.
Mark Gladwin, 70, from York, who is an ex-employee of Bradford Council, said:
“As a grandad, I don’t want my pension savings financing activities which will lead towards a poorer, more dangerous world for my grandchildren to grow up in.”
Sam Saxby, 37, said:
“I live in Calderdale, a beautiful place which is at risk of flooding – risks made worse by climate change. WYPF invests heavily in companies who extract and sell the very fuels which cause climate change. It’s wrong that my pension is supporting an industry which is so damaging. As China and the US have ratified the Paris carbon reduction targets, it’s clearer than ever that fossil fuels are yesterday’s news.We should be investing in the clean technology of tomorrow, not the tail-end of the poisonous petroleum bubble.”
We have just released a 5 minute film making the case for a Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund, including footage for our ‘Clean Up ‘ action in Bradford and interviews with WYPF members and local residents.