Plan to end fossil fuel investment is celebrated

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Campaigners and pension fund members, including those in Argyll are celebrating the announcement that Glasgow City Council has endorsed a plan to end its £500 million investment in fossil fuels.

The motion was approved by a full meeting of Glasgow City Council on April 2 by a margin of 69 votes to four against and represented the first time a Scottish city has set-out clear support for fossil fuel divestment.

Glasgow City invests in fossil fuels through the Strathclyde Pension Fund, the joint largest local government fund in the UK, run on behalf of 250,000 fund members in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, which includes Argyll and Bute Council.

The burning of fossil fuels is the one of the biggest driver of the climate crisis, and fossil fuel companies are currently working to increase production, say campaigners. Calls for divestment have come from trade unions, local officials and national politicians.

However, this month’s decision is not binding on the pension fund, it must be approved by the Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee whose deliberations will take place just months before the UN climate talks take place in Glasgow this November.

The campaign for divestment has been led by Divest Strathclyde. The group’s Louise King said: ‘This is a big win for the divestment movement, but this is not the end for our campaign. It’s now the turn of the councillors on the Pensions Committee to make this decision binding. Until that is done, we will keep up the pressure to hold them accountable and ensure that they divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.’

Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convenor of UNISON Scotland, the largest union representing local government pension fund members, added: ‘It is encouraging that Glasgow City Council is expressing support for action on the climate crisis that is facing us. Instead of continuing to be part of the problem the Strathclyde Pension Fund should increase investments in sustainable alternatives – it would have workers’ backing to do so. There is a moral, ethical and financial case to remove workers’ pension funds from investments that will lose value as the world moves to a low-carbon economy which is less dependent on fossil fuels.’

The Divest Strathclyde campaign began in 2015 and over that time members have spoken to hundreds of councillors and local people, protested at the city chambers, worked with trade unionists, gathered signatures from pension fund members, won pledges from councillors, picketed the Fund’s AGM, put on events with international speakers and met with the First Minister.

In 2019 members took part in the Glasgow City Council’s Climate Emergency Working Group which recommended the city divest.

West Dunbartonshire and North Ayrshire councils in the former Strathclyde region have already supported a call for divestment by passing official motions.