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Campaigners release data on fossil fuel holdings of UK local authority pension funds

Greater Manchester scheme seen as holding largest investment

The UK’s 418 local government pension fund schemes collectively invest £14bn (€19bn) in fossil fuels, according to new data from divestment campaigners who have broken down the oil, coal and gas holdings of every local council in the country.

The £13bn (€17.8bn) Greater Manchester Pension Fund, one of the UK’s largest local government schemes, has the largest investment in fossil fuels comprising 10% of its portfolio (£1.3bn), according to the figures.

The fund is chaired by Kieran Quinn, who also chairs the influential local authority shareholder engagement group the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF).

The data on fossil fuel holdings has been collated by NGO 350.org, Fossil Free UK and Friends of the Earth. It is available online with an interactive tool to let users “see exactly what your local council invests in”. It will be used to kick-start a series of divestment campaigns.

There are already 18 divestment campaigns targeted at local authority pension funds, and 12 new campaigns are being launched today.

Other council funds with large fossil fuel investments, the campaigners say, include the Strathclyde pension fund (£750m) and West Yorkshire pension fund (£670m).Friends of the Earth campaigner Ali Abbas called for Greater Manchester “to stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels”.

“Stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”

Earlier this month, RI reported the Greater Manchester funds was under pressure to change its binding Statement of Investment Principles (SIP) to include a principle to divest from fossil fuels, and to actively invest or divest based on ESG considerations.

Danielle Paffard from 350.org in the UK said: “Public investments in fossil fuels are fuelling dangerous climate change, and present a threat to the pensions of 4.6m public sector workers. There’s a strong ethical and financial case for local councils to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest into infrastructure fit for the 21st century.”

The project is an “invitation to question transparency, democracy and decision-making in public finance”.

The drive comes as the global Divest-Invest initiative says that worldwide commitments to divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy has grown 50-fold in one year.