‘We strongly urge the council to move its shares out of fossil fuels now.” That was the stark message from Divest Hackney campaigners addressing the council’s Pension Fund board on Monday 19 September. A new shares audit showed that the ‘carbon footprint’ of the fund was a huge 212,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission every year. That’s one tonne of CO2 for every Hackney citizen. Although the council stopped short of taking action now, the chair of the board admitted that there was now a ‘common purpose’ to address the risk that fossil fuels shares presents to the investment the board has a duty to protect.
So, as Hackney Citizen reported, the good news is that the Pension Fund will meet again in January 2017 to agree a strategy which, hopefully, will include swapping all its ‘brown’ shares for green ones. This means switching to green investments, like renewable energy projects and energy saving schemes. So watch this space!
A key issue the board is looking at, of course, is risk. That’s also the stark message from the governor of the Bank of England himself, Mark Carney. He has warned that investors face ‘huge’ losses in the value of shares in fossil fuels because regulations to tackle the growing threat of climate change ‘will leave assets stranded.’ Investors should sell off (‘divest’) these shares or face future losses.
That’s why Divest Hackney wants the council to sell its £42 million shares in fossil fuel companies. Anyone working for the council, or drawing a council pension would want to be sure the £1.1 billion Pension Fund is in good hands. Clearly, there’s no future for shares invested in fossil fuel companies – oil, gas, and coal mining.
The council has disclosed to Divest Hackney campaigners that its £1.1 billion pension includes £42 million of shares in companies like Shell, BP, Marathon Oil and some of the most enthusiastic gas fracking and mining companies across the planet. As a report to the committee showed, the Pension Fund is heavily over-exposed to ‘brown’ as opposed to green energy investments (with apologies for the poor photo quality from the council report, see above). But as the chair of the pension’s board also said, ‘We don’t own these shares so that we can engage with these companies. We engage with them because we own the shares.’ The purpose of a new investment strategy in 2017 will essentially be to dump the shares: ‘Everyone is sympathetic to the need for a fossil free future.’