Call to review council pension fund in effort to tackle climate change

PUBLISHED: 08:56 07 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:56 07 January 2019

Essex County Council

Essex County Council

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Essex County Council is being urged to divest millions of pounds from the fossil fuel industry to help save the planet from global warming.

Figures suggest the Essex pension fund has tied up more than £23million in the fossil fuel industry in companies including traditional oil firms such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total.

It also has investments with lesser known companies involved in fossil fuels such as Hong Kong & China Gas, CDN Natural Resources and Tullow Oil plc.

And although the total amount invested is small compared to the overall size of the £7billion pension pot, campaigners say even that can make huge differences.

Sarah Clark, an environmental campaigner and researcher based in Chelmsford, said she was particularly concerned that in its strategic investment reviews, the Essex pension fund score card system makes no mention of environmental impact.

She said: “I wonder how many people know that while saving for their future they are actually funding the continuation of global warming and the climate breakdown.

“We are looking very soon to be passing a tipping point where all these extreme weather conditions will affect how much food we can grow.

“These risks are here and people with money in these pension schemes are helping fund the destruction of our natural world.”

The council’s investment steering committee, which oversees the huge pension investment portfolio for around 160,000 people, does not place restrictions on investment managers in choosing investments in companies, except in limiting the size of single investments.

The fund’s investment strategy statement is scheduled for review and consultation in the first half of 2019.

Councillor Susan Barker, chairman of the Essex pension investment steering committee, said: “As a fund we recognise both our fiduciary responsibilities and the range of potential risks, including climate change, that long term investors face.

“Working with our advisers and investment managers we will continue to assess our investments. Our investment strategy statement is scheduled for review and consultation in the first half of 2019.”

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