Greens call for councils to stop investing millions in fossil fuels

New research from Friends of the Earth Scotland shows that council pension funds in Scotland invest £1.2bn in fossil fuel giants.

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Argyll and Bute council insists it is committed to its decarbonisation plan despite contributing to a pension fund that invested more than £508m in fossil fuels last year.

A report by environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed that the Strathclyde Pension Fund is the highest contributor to big oil and gas companies in Scotland.

The fund is overseen by Glasgow City Councillors and manages pensions for 12 local authorities in the west of Scotland, including Argyll and Bute Council.

Last week the Scottish Greens lead candidate for Highlands and Islands, Ariane Burgess called for the council to end its contributions to fossil fuels through the Strathclyde Pension Fund and instead make more socially responsible investments.

‘Public pension funds in Scotland continue to invest millions to bankroll fossil fuel companies every year,’ she said.

‘The public don’t want to see these pension funds exacerbating the climate crisis, particularly when this cash could be invested into socially responsible endeavours like green energy production, house building and public transport improvements.

‘This year the world will come to Scotland when Glasgow hosts the UN climate change summit. It’s time for Scotland to take a lead in tackling the climate crisis, and one of the most straightforward ways we can begin to do that is by ending these public investments in big oil and gas.

‘Argyll and Bute Council must show that it is serious about tackling the climate emergency by bringing its influence to bear and ending these obscene oil and gas investments.’

In November last year ABC released its draft decarbonisation plan for 2021 in which council leader Robin Currie states that the council’s recovery plan and strategy champions the area being ‘built back better on a low carbon economy and making the most sustainable use of our assets and existing core industries’.

When asked this week whether it would consider moving its funds out of fossil fuels at some point in the future a spokesperson responded: ‘The council is committed to our decarbonisation plan and notes that Strathclyde Pension Fund is currently developing its climate change strategy.’

Elsewhere local activists are calling on Strathclyde Pension Fund to ‘divest for climate justice’ and have raised ethical concerns around the projects that the pension fund’s investments are supporting.

Louise King, pension fund holder and member of Divest Strathclyde said: ‘Strathclyde Pension Fund currently invests millions in Shell, Eni, Chevron and BP.

‘Eni’s ongoing liquified natural gas extraction project in Mozambique has forced the displacement of fishing communities far from the coastline that they depend on for their livelihoods and has brought increased militarisation to the area.

Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: ‘Local authorities have the power and duty to ensure local workers have a pension for their retirement, but also a future worth retiring into. Instead of stubbornly sticking with old systems of investment that worsen climate breakdown, councils should boost investment in renewable energy and social housing.’

While the fund continues to invest millions in some of the most polluting fossil fuel
companies, the overall proportion of the fossil fuel investments have decreased by half
since 2017 from 4.1 per cent to just over 2.24 per cent of the fund’s investment portfolio.