MASS data released this week by Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth (Oct 30) reveals that Pembrokeshire Council (as part of the Dyfed Council Pension Fund) has £64.8million of public money directly invested through workers pension funds in fossil fuel companies like BP and Shell with a further projected £76.5million in indirect fossil fuel investments.
The research shows that Pembrokeshire County Council has over 8% of its pension fund directly invested in fossil fuels, and money is invested into multinational fossil fuel companies including BP, Shell and BHP Billiton
Eleanor Clegg of Friends of the Earth said: “Many people working for Pembrokeshire Council will be concerned to learn that their future is tied up with such a risky and polluting industry. When governments do act to prevent dangerous climate change, the business model for fossil fuel companies will be over, and that day is fast approaching. And, if oil and gas companies keep on drilling in their final days, it will make climate change far worse – it is the right decision both financially and ethically for Pembrokeshire County Council to divest as soon as possible.”
This is the first time that the £231 billion investments of local government public money have ever been broken down and released publicly, and their exposure to fossil fuels quantified. The data shows that overall the 192 councils in the UK have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels via their pension funds. Three quarters of these direct fossil fuel shareholdings are in only ten companies, headed by BP and Shell.
80% of fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. Consequently, there has been growing concerns about the long-term financial risks of fossil fuel investments. A recent analysis found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS & CalSTRS, incurred a combined loss of over $5 billion in the last year alone from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.
Friends of the Earth said in a statement: “This data offers the residents of Pembrokeshire the information they need to ask why the Council is choosing to invest in risky oil, gas or coal. Instead the Council could reinvest this money into building new homes, clean renewable energy or public transport.”
Eleanor Clegg also told The Herald: “Most fund members and taxpayers won’t be happy to learn that their money is funding climate change. As local residents we’ll be calling on the council to stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”
She added: “Oxford and Bristol City Councils have already taken a lead in making fossil free commitments, joining 40 cities internationally and larger institutions like the Norwegian Government Pension Fund. There are 389 institutions globally – including universities, faith groups, health groups and governments – that have committed to divest. Local residents who would like to join the local campaign to convince Pembrokeshire Council to divest from fossil fuels should get in touch.”
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said in response: “Many commentators from the public and media get confused with the fact that it is the Dyfed Pension Fund and not Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire or Ceredigion individually. All investments are on behalf of the Dyfed Pension Fund – not any individual employer. There are approximately 50 employers in the fund.”
The spokesman added: “The Dyfed Pension Fund Statement of Investment Principles (SIP) details the Fund’s ‘Social, Environmental and Ethical Considerations’. Paragraph 5 states: The Pension Panel recognises that social, environmental and ethical considerations are among the factors which investment managers will take into account, where relevant, when selecting investments for purchase, retention or sale. The managers have produced statements setting out their policies. The managers have been delegated by the Panel to act accordingly.
“The Pension Fund is a member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), which is one of the leading voices in corporate governance and responsible investment in the UK.
“Before making investments in fossil fuel companies the investment managers assess a wide range of factors, including, the political stability of the region where its reserves lie, the financial regimes it operates in, the life and quality of its reserves, its operational record, quality of the management, its financial strength, sensitivity to volatile energy prices and its market valuation.