Despite the current climate crisis, BucksCC Pension Fund has £85 million invested in fossil fuel companies, which are a key contributor to global warming. £35 million of this is invested in fracking. Aylesbury’s Quakers have challenged the Fund to reconsider this investment policy when they next meet in July and take decisive action to combat the climate emergency.
The threat of climate change is urgent and devastating. International experts agree that the time for talking is over and that changes are needed now. However, recent research by UNISON shows BucksCC Pension Fund is one of the poorest in its response to this crisis.
The Fund Committee chair is reported as defending its policy by saying that, legally, “committees cannot place … environmental … factors above the requirement to maximise the investment returns …” However, in 2017 the government told Local Government Pension Schemes they did indeed have the right to invest funds to deliver social impact. With the support of employees and pensioners this can take priority over simply making money.
“We believe the support for action is there and growing. Many feel the moral consideration to invest in our planet’s future. If we don’t act now others who share our planet today and in the future, including our children and grandchildren are certain to suffer significant losses from devastating climate breakdown. Their futures matter”, says campaigner Kathy Russell.
The Bucks Pension Scheme includes many UNISON members and covers Milton Keynes Council staff. Both of these organisations support moving investment out of fossil fuels (divestment). There are many other equally good areas of investment, including in renewable energies. Indeed there is mounting evidence that fracking is a bad investment. Other Schemes – Waltham Forest and Southwark – are already committed to divestment.
Climate change is critical. The Fund Committee has the support and the authority to improve its strategic response. The Quaker challenge is that all members of both the Fund Committee and Board need to recognise this and act upon it.
- Aylesbury Quakers are members of The Religious Society of Friends, who meet locally at the Quaker Meeting House, 9 Rickfords Hill, Aylesbury. We are formally part of a larger local group – the Chiltern Area Quaker Meeting. https://www.caqm.org.uk/aylesbury
- As Quakers we have a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment. Neither our generation nor we humans as a whole own the World; we hold it in trust for all the generations to come. In 2017 Chiltern Area Quaker Meeting divested its own finances from fossil fuel extraction and production as part of the ongoing worldwide action which has resulted in trillions of dollars being divested from fossil fuels with concurrent growth in investment in renewable energies.
- Bucks County Council Pension Fund meetings at County Hall, Aylesbury:
- Pension Fund Board:18 July 2019, at 10.00 am in Mezzanine Room 2,
- Pension Fund Committee: 23 July 2019, 2 pm in Mezzanine Room 3
- The move for Local Government Pension Schemes divestment goes much wider than Bucks. Last year (18/06/18) The Guardian reported that LGPS were believed to have invested £16bn in the fossil fuel industry. Other LGPS are reported to be divesting from fossil fuels and/or increasingly investing in sustainable or green energy:
- Derby and Monmouthshire – vote to back divestment
- Strathclyde: £10 million in hydro stations
- Lancashire: £12 million in a community owned solar farm.
- Bucks Pension Fund invest figures are taken from FoI responses and Friends of the Earth report “Divest Fracking — How UK Councils are Banking on Dirty Gas” by Deirdre Duff, September 2018,
- The threat and expertise on climate change is based on “Global warming of 1.5°C: Summary for Policymakers”, an IPCC special report, pub. IPCC, Switzerland, ISBN 978-92-9169-151-7, October 2018.
- Research by UNISON is published as “Responsible investment in LGPS research and review of the pension fund’s investment strategy statements (England and Wales)”, April 2019. Contact: Colin Meech, UNISON national officer.
- The Fund Committee chair’s claim about current policy was reported in the Buckingham & Winslow Advertiser on 10 Nov 2017 and The Guardian on 18 Dec 2017.
- Government guidance on the right to make investments to deliver social impact is in “Local Government Pension Scheme Guidance on Preparing and Maintaining an Investment Strategy Statement”, Department for Communities and Local Government, July 2017.
- UNISON policy on divestment is on their website: .https://www.unison.org.uk/news/press-release/2018/01/unison-launches-campaign-divest-pensions-carbon/
- For evidence that fracking is a bad investment see sources like:
- Regan, James “BHP chairman says $20 billion investment in shale was a mistake”, Reuters, Business News, 29 Jun 2017
- Crooks, E. and Kao, J.S. “In charts: has the US shale drilling revolution peaked?”, Financial Times, 18 Oct 2017
- Surran, Carl “Fracking frenzy runs dry as profits fail to materialize”, Wall Street Journal, 6 Dec 2017
- For Waltham Forest and Southwark commitment to divestment, see their investment strategy statements online.
Ms Kathy Russell