Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee approves plan to keep investing hundreds of millions in polluters
By Friends of the Earth
The Strathclyde Pension Fund has approved a new investment policy which campaigners and trade unionists say risks investment in climate polluters continuing indefinitely.
The Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee met for the last time before COP26 today (8 September 2021). The fund, which is run by Glasgow City Council, was asked to put in place a plan to divest from fossil fuel companies before the UN climate summit which is taking place in Glasgow in November.
Friends of the Earth Scotland estimates that the Strathclyde Pension Fund invests over £836 million in fossil fuel companies. The Fund’s own estimate put oil and gas investments at £316 million. (1) Either figure makes it the largest investment in climate polluters of any public fund in Scotland.
Little of the proposed plan meets the demands laid before councillors in a joint letter last week from UNISON Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Divest Strathclyde. (2)
Problems with the policy include:
- Sets the bar for continued investment in climate polluters so low that most major oil companies would likely be retained;
- No mention of the UN Paris Treaty target to limit global heating to 1.5° or to the City Council’s own climate emergency plan;
- No specific figures, timescales, or deadlines;
- Lack of any commitment to transparency or consultation.
Despite being labelled as a fossil fuel divestment policy, the paper itself states that “most” of its current investments in energy companies would be retained after the policy is applied.
Isla Scott, Divest Strathclyde said:
“We are frankly aghast that Strathclyde Pension Fund is still happy to pour hundreds of millions into financing the very companies who are driving the climate crisis and who are getting away with murder. After years of the policy of ‘engagement’ practiced by the Fund, it is clear that this has made very little if any difference to the fossil fuel companies, who are even now planning to maximise the production of oil and gas in many places around the world while greenwashing their continued pollution and lobbying governments to prevent climate action.
“We want to see SPF put in place a real policy that will ensure they divest from these climate-destroying companies and reinvest in a sustainable future. We’ll be watching and holding them to account to make sure they don’t get away with this greenwashing.”
Stephen Smellie, Depute Convenor of UNISON Scotland:
“The host city for COP26 had the chance to become an international leader in green pensions, but they have sadly fallen short. Given the climate emergency we face, the proposals are too slow, too timid and the soft questions being asked will allow carbon investments to be concealed.
“From the discussion at the Pension Committee today it appears that a number of Councillors have similar ambitions for the City and similar concerns about the report they were discussing. We note that further discussions are planned with Councillors to consider how the commitment to adopt a divestment strategy is actually going to work. What is needed is for the fund to engage more fully, not just with Councillors, but with the pension fund members, their trade unions and environmental groups to develop their policy further.”
Ric Lander, Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“Fund members, community activists and the City Council have demanded the Strathclyde Pension Fund come up with a plan to divest from disastrous fossil fuel companies. Instead, this is a plan to carry on with business as usual.
“Continuing to invest hundreds of millions in climate polluters is financial folly and morally repugnant. Fossil fuel companies can’t survive if we succeed in building a sustainable future. That also means that Glasgow will host the world’s climate crisis talks knowing it’s pension fund is banking on their failure.
“This policy is in development, and City Councillors have the power to change course. They must now consider how this policy can be turned into something effective and meaningful, a contribution to climate action that Glasgow could be proud of.”
1. ‘Strathclyde Pension Fund’s investments in fossil fuel increases ahead of COP26, claims study’ – the Ferret https://theferret.scot/pension-funds-investment-in-fossil-fuel-has-increased/
Based on a report by Friends of the Earth Scotland: https://foe.scot/resource/spf-ctte-brief-aug-2021/
2. Divest Strathclyde is a group of fund members and local people campaigning for the Strathclyde Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels.
3. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 73 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.