Campaign group Fossil Free UK is to release the details of the fossil fuel holdings of every local authority pension fund in the UK next month to kick-start a divestment campaign targeting the sector.
The information has been gathered by volunteers through Freedom of Information requests and will reveal how much of the £225bn (€314.7bn) collectively managed by local authority pension schemes is invested in fossil fuels.
Speaking to Responsible Investor, Danielle Paffard, UK divestment organiser at 350.org, who has coordinated Fossil Free UK’s work, said it was very hard to get the data.
“It’s taken months,” she said. “We had lots of volunteers chasing up information. Some local authorities were helpful, others less so.”
The project had four dedicated volunteers running the process, and regular collaborations with bigger groups to gather information.
There are 101 local authority pension funds in the UK managing pension fund assets for a local authority network of 450 bodies.
Fossil Free UK plans to release the data on September 1 and make it publicly available. “It will include a mapping tool where you can look up your local area and see what the situation is and download information on all their fossil fuel investments,” said Paffard.
She said the data would drill down into all fossil fuel holdings. In the case of pooled funds there will be estimates. The data will also illustrate the total monetary size of each local authority pension funds fossil fuel holdings, and how much is held directly or indirectly through pooled funds. It is part of a plan to inspire local divestment groups to form across the UK.Divestment campaign groups are already developing across the country. In Oxford, local campaign group Fossil Free Oxfordshire met with the Oxfordshire Pension Fund Committee in June. In a blog describing the meeting, the group said: “For the first time we came away with the sense that, on the whole, the Committee is grasping the magnitude and seriousness of the issue. It’s not a clear-cut win, but we think it’s a significant shift.” Bristol Fossil Free also met its areas’ local authority pension fund scheme in June.
In February, Bristol City Council and Oxfordshire City Council committed to go fossil free to mark Global Divestment Day.
Fossil Free UK already has a website which allows local areas to set up petitions targeting their local authority pension scheme. The site has 17 petitions currently.
The movement is also gaining celebrity support with influential campaigner Bianca Jagger voicing her support on Twitter.
Paffard says the campaign is following the same trajectory in the US, where along with educational institutions and faith groups, local government pension schemes are also under pressure to divest from fossil fuels.
Most recently, legislation has been tabled in New York State calling on the Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to divest the $176.8bn pension fund he oversees from fossil fuels. Just last week the London Pensions Fund Authority (LPFA), the £4.8bn (€6.6bn) local authority fund in the UK capital, rejected calls from the London Assembly to exit fossil fuels. In a letter to the Assembly, which oversees the work of Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the LPFA said it had less than 1% invested in fossil fuels and that “we do not expect fund managers to specifically invest or divest in certain sectors, but they are expected to take a responsible investment approach instead”. Link