Greater Manchester Pension Fund lags behind other major cities on climate change

14th March 2018
news
release

Climate change campaigners are claiming a partial victory in their campaign for the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) to dump its investments in climate damaging fossil fuel companies – but they say GMPF is doing too little too late.

In a fourteen page letter to councillors and MPs, GMPF demonstrates that it has taken on board the arguments of the Fossil Free Greater Manchester campaign, and has now made a commitment to move to a fossil-free investment portfolio by 2050.[1]

However, campaigners are disappointed that GMPF is now the ‘dirtiest’ pension fund in the country [2] and is lagging behind other major cities such as New York, Paris and Stockholm, and nearby regions such as Merseyside and South Yorkshire [3], which have recently committed to divest from fossil fuels.

Chris Smith from Fossil Free Greater Manchester said:

“We’re pleased that the dirtiest pension fund in the country has finally recognised the need to divest, but it has no credible plan for getting there.

“It’s high time councillors took the decisive step to actually begin moving money from risky, dirty investments like their peers have.”

Campaigners from Fossil Free Greater Manchester handed in a petition with over 5,000 signatures at GMPF’s AGM in September 2017, calling on GMPF to divest from coal, oil and gas companies.

In November 2017, GMPF was revealed as the dirtiest pension fund in the country – the only local authority pension fund in the country with over 10% of its investments in fossil fuel companies.

 

ENDS

CONTACT FOR COMMENT

Chris Smith, Fossil Free Greater Manchester. Mobile: 07502037511 Email: cjsmith.me@gmail.com

Ali Abbas, Fossil Free Greater Manchester. Mobile: 07786 090520 Email: ali@manchesterfoe.org.uk

 

====Notes to editors====

1) Fossil Free Greater Manchester is a coalition of pension fund members, environmentalists and trade unionists which has been campaigning since 2015. Details of the Fund’s letter and our detailed response to the Fund can be found at If you’d like to read our full response to GMPF’s letter.

2) National data released in November revealed that Greater Manchester’s local authority pension fund is investing £1.8bn in the fossil fuel industry. See gofossilfree.org/uk/fuellingthefire Campaigners say the controversial investments threaten the climate and also represent an unacceptable financial risk to both present and future pensioners. The Greater Manchester Pension Fund is now the dirtiest in the UK, being the only local authority pension fund in the UK to invest over 10% of its portfolio in fossil fuels.

3) New York’s public pension fund has committed to divest from fossil fuels:

Merseyside’s local authority pension fund has committed to move some of its money out of fossil fuels.

List of cities which have divested: https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/

GMPF’s letter contains:

Multiple statements about risks from climate change

The statement that “there is a place for disinvestment”, and that GMPF has done it before together with the mention (three times in all) that their evolving approach could be called “partial divestment”

Positive, large investments in green infrastructure

The commitment to transparency

But there remain significant points that we must challenge, particularly the very weak case against full divestment (although the principle of at least partial divestment is accepted by the GMPF). In this regard, two statements are made without any substantiation:

It is asserted that divestment “creates an unacceptable risk”, but no evidence is presented to justify this

It is stated that “the pace of decarbonisation must be consistent with our risk framework”, with the implication that going faster would not be consistent with that framework. Again, no evidence to support this is presented

Since risk is cited as the chief reason for not moving to a managed programme of full divestment, we might have expected some kind of an analysis of the risks of divestment. None has been provided. Indeed, the only information presented on risks (risks from climate change and risks of asset stranding) is consistent with our proposal.

We therefore have three questions for the Fund:

Since others have chosen to fully divest and found the risk palatable, please define what you mean by unacceptable risk (of full divestment).

Please set out your timescales, priorities and targets for partial divestment? What are your 2020 and 2025 horizons? Will you commit to divest from coal.

Will you demonstrate your commitment to transparency by publishing more frequent and detailed data for holdings: what have you sold and what have you bought? Will you also give permission for WWF to publish the information you gave them?