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Floods, climate change and council pension fund investments.

news release
26th Jan 2016

Local campaigners are calling on Greater Manchester’s local authority pension fund to learn the lessons from the recent floods and redirect investments away from the fossil fuels that cause climate change.

The terrible flooding that hit parts of Greater Manchester, Cumbria, Yorkshire and other areas highlights the urgent need for divestment from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels creates the global warming that is changing our climate. Expert opinion is that climate change makes such extreme weather more likely.

The Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) has a legal responsibility to invest wisely on behalf of its members working for local councils and other organisations. This means protecting the value of assets, ensuring a reasonable return and ensuring that investments do not contribute to risks. (1)

But as Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, recently warned the potential losses from falling share prices for fossil fuel companies were “potentially huge” as their reserves of coal, oil and gas become “stranded” as they cannot be burned if the world is to tackle climate change. (2) The GMPF lost an estimated £148 million over the last 18 months on its investments in coal mining (3).

Chris Smith, from local campaign Fossil Free Greater Manchester, commented:

“The hundreds of people across Greater Manchester who were affected by the recent flooding must be wondering why the Greater Manchester Pension Fund has £1.3 billion invested in coal, oil and gas companies.

“If GMPF is serious about securing a prosperous future for pension scheme members, it must divest from companies like Shell and BP, whose products are making climate change worse and flooding more likely.”

Over £1bn of Greater Manchester pensioners’ money is currently locked into these damaging fossil fuel companies, according to Platform, Community Reinvest, 350.org and Friends of the Earth. Nationwide, this data shows local council pension funds have £14bn invested in fossil fuels. That’s more than double the estimated £6bn cost of this years’ floods so far. (4)

In 2014, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund decided to divest from tobacco stocks because of public health concerns. (5) Public Health England have highlighted the health risks associated with climate change. (6)

Public health considerations should mean they now begin to divest from fossil fuels to encourage the needed rapid transition to a carbon neutral economy.  Money released by phased divestment could be diverted to renewable energy and energy conservation as well as to preparation for the impacts of climate change.

Fossil Free Greater Manchester is campaigning for the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to freeze its investments in fossil fuels and then carry out a managed programme of divestment over a five year period. (7)

Fossil Free Greater Manchester are encouraging local residents to support their campaign by signing an online petition.

ENDS

Contacts for comments:

Chris Smith – Fossil Free Greater Manchester.  Mobile: 07502037511

Ali Abbas, Manchester Friends of the Earth co-ordinator. Mobile:  07786 090520

ali@manchesterfoe.org.uk

 

Notes for editors:

(1) The Greater Manchester Pension Fund is the largest local authority pension fund in the country, with total investments of over £13 billion.  Its members work for the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester, and a whole host of other organisations such as local colleges and Citizens Advice Bureau.

The Fund is responsible for investments worth approximately £13 Billion.  Of these fossil fuel companies account for nearly ten per cent, or £1.3 Billion.  The two largest investments of the fund are in Shell and BP.

(2) See Bank of England website.

(3)  The losses were estimated by campaign group Platform who analysed Local Government PensionScheme investments in the four biggest global coalmining companies.

(4) Trouble for insurance giants as Christmas flood damage estimates rise to between £2bn and £2.8bn

(5) See Greater Manchester Pension Fund Advisory Panel minutes.

(6) See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/climate-change-health-effects-in-the-uk

(7) Fossil Free Greater Manchester is part of the Fossil Free UK grassroots network, which itself is part of a growing international movement calling on institutions to divest (sell their shares) from fossil fuels to take action against catastrophic climate change.

Our environmental concerns are science based and as recent events in Paris have demonstrated are now universally shared by world governments and over 40 leading city administrations. To restrict the increase in global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius, we need a rapid transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources.

 

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