William Eichler 23 October 2023

Over £12bn of council pensions invested in fossil fuel

Over £12bn of council pensions invested in fossil fuel image
Image: Andrii Yalanskyi / Shutterstock.com.

Over £12bn of local government pensions are invested in the fossil fuel industry, environmental campaigners have revealed.

Friends of the Earth and Platform London have warned that investments in oil and gas by the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) are turning ‘public savings into fossil fuel playthings.’

Freedom of information requests sent by the campaign groups found that at least £12.2bn has been invested in fossil fuels, with £10.4bn in England, £1.4bn in Scotland, £227m in Wales, and £28m in Northern Ireland.

Insufficient data was available for the remaining 25% of assets, but Friends of the Earth and Platform London calculate that up to £16bn of the LGPS could be invested in fossil fuels.

Rob Noyes, divestment campaigner and researcher at Platform, said: ‘Investments in dirty fossil fuels turn public sector savings into fossil fuel playthings, pumping billions of pounds through the pensions pipeline into climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

‘This money is syphoned from workers’ wages and squandered, when it should be fuelling the green and just transition that we so desperately need. Polluters are profiting at pensioners' expense. To catch-up on climate, councils must stop using pensions to prop up this deadly industry.’

The research found that just 10% of funds hold over 50% of LGPS fossil fuel investments – with Greater Manchester Pension Fund and West Yorkshire Pension Fund each investing over £1bn into fossil fuels.

Over 20% of local authorities now invest less than 1% of their fund into fossil fuels – a 10-fold increase since 2020.

Stephen Smellie, depute convenor at Unison Scotland, said: ‘Fossil fuels are bad for the environment and our retirement. These dirty deals threaten the future of our environment, and needlessly risk the retirements of the hundreds of thousands of Unison members that pay into local government pension schemes. To secure a future worth retiring into, schemes should respond to members’ calls to action and dump these dated fossil fuel assets.’

Deputy leader of the Local Government Association’s independent group, Caroline Jackson – the most senior Green councillor in England – has told The MJ there will be a greater push for divestment in the LGPS after the Greens made a record 200 seat gains this year.

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