Council workers pension fund urged to boycott coal, oil and gas companies

COAL, oil and gas companies should be boycotted by the £14.7 billion pension fund for West Midlands public workers, says Birmingham City Council.

Councillors from across the political spectrum have backed a motion demanding the West Midlands Pension Fund withdraw its £393 million investments in fossil fuel companies.

Instead they claimed it should put the cash into building homes and backing companies developing renewable energy sources.

The motion was tabled by Liberal Democrat councillor Roger Harmer (Acocks Green) and achieved wide support.

Cllr Harmer said: “If we are to save our environment for future generations it is vital that we leave most of our coal and oil resources in the ground.

“It therefore makes no sense for Birmingham’s pension funds to be investing in industries based on exploiting these resources.

“Instead we should be investing more in low carbon technologies, which enable us to live cleaner, healthier lives.”

Cllr Roger Harmer

It is also thought likely that as the economy switches to renewable and low carbon energy and technology develops that these investments will provide increasingly better returns.

Labour council leader John Clancy added: “It’s absolutely essential that we look after our 16-year-olds in this city – the youngest city in Europe, and I think this motion is an excellent way of protecting the future for those local government workers.”

Cllr Clancy has previously clashed with the pension fund over its investment strategy, calling for more investment in West Midlands companies and housing development.

He also negotiated a reduction in Birmingham’s contribution to the pension deficit earlier this year claiming it was wasting money on hefty management fees.

Friends of the Earth campaigners protest and deliver letter to West Midlands Pension Fund office in Wolverhampton in 2015

The call for the withdrawal from fossil fuel investments is part of a wider campaign by environmentalists to help tackle climate change.

Co-ordinator of regional campaign group Divest WMPF Kay Edwards said: “This is wonderful that Birmingham City Council has shown leadership in leading the way towards a fossil free future for the West Midlands.”

The West Midlands Pension Fund, which is run by Wolverhampton City Council, has agreed to consider Birmingham City Council’s motion when it next meets to look at its investments.

A statement from the fund said: “The fund is aware that climate change brings with it risks and opportunities and at all times needs to balance that with having a clear focus on the financial performance of our portfolio.”

It added that the fund’s Pension Committee receives investment updates at its quarterly meetings.

“The fund is aware of the comments raised by councillors at the Birmingham City Council meeting, and will review those comments in line with the Responsible Investment Update to be presented to committee at its next meeting in September.”

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