The report points out that Highland Council declared a climate and ecological emergency in May 2019 and committed to achieving a carbon neutral region by 2025
Highland Council’s pension fund has £46 million invested in fossil fuel companies, according to a new report.
The figure revealed in document produced by Friends of the Earth (FoE) found that councils in Scotland have invested £1.2 billion in such businesses. The figure was £9.9 billion across the UK.
The report points out that Highland Council declared a climate and ecological emergency in May 2019 and committed to achieving a carbon neutral region by 2025.
The council’s pension fund administers the pensions of over 32,000 members including on behalf of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council).
FoE says that as fossil fuel company stocks have fallen in value in recent years, local councils have lost out with Highland Council losing £11.65 million between 2017 and 2020. Overall, Scottish councils lost £194 million over that period.
Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: Many local authorities have declared a climate emergency and have plans in place to bring down emissions from transport, buildings and waste. Pension fund investments are currently working against this progress by continuing to back the ageing fossil fuel economy. Local councillors have the opportunity to show leadership on climate action by telling fund managers to divest from fossil fuels.
Local authorities have the power and duty to ensure local workers have a pension for their retirement, but also a future worth retiring into. Instead of stubbornly sticking with old systems of investment that worsen climate breakdown, councils should boost investment in renewable energy and social housing, Lander said.
Stephen Smellie, deputy convenor of the Unison Scotland Union, which is the largest union representing local government pension fund members, said: Workers care deeply about a sustainable future for their children, and if pension funds consulted with the people whose money they are investing they would know that. Instead, they continue to be part of the climate crisis problem rather than being part of the solution that they could be if they increased investments in sustainable alternatives.
A council spokesman said: The Highland Council Pension Fund is independent from Highland Council and decisions regarding investment principles are made by the Pensions Committee (membership of which includes but is not exclusive to Highland Council Councillors). The decision-making process for the Pensions Committee is scrutinised by the Pensions Board whose membership includes employer organisation and member representatives.
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