Make £6.5 billion Essex pension fund greener, council told

pension fund

The pension fund invests nearly £129 million in coal, oil and gas – equivalent to nearly 1.94 per cent of its total fund, according to a report published in February

The multi-billion pound Essex pension fund should be directed toward more sustainable net carbon opportunities, the county council has heard as it commits to a raft of climate change recommendations.

While Essex County Council’s (ECC) cabinet has agreed to the recommendations from the Essex Climate Action Commission, the commission’s chairman Jules Pretty said the enormous pension £6.5 billion fund, one of the largest of the local government schemes, could be used more usefully in more sustainable investments.

According to a report published in February by Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, the pension fund invests nearly £129 million in coal, oil and gas – equivalent to nearly 1.94 per cent of its total fund.

Speaking to the cabinet, Mr Pretty said: If there were one area that I would ask the cabinet and leader of the council to think about that would be the investment policy for the Essex pension fund – one of the largest in the country – and a very important fund.

And there are opportunities there to show sustainable investment policies, the green finance that was discussed also at COP, opportunities to make sure that the investments are put in the way that will help the economy as well as the environment for the future, he said.

Councillor Kevin Bentley, leader of ECC, said he was due to discuss the pension fund Thursday.

He said: I know work has been going on in the pension fund and I’m meeting along with my cabinet colleagues and the chair of the pension fund in Essex to interrogate further what work is being done and to, if need be, accelerate that as well. I couldn’t agree more and I know my colleagues in the cabinet would agree with that too.

His comments came ahead of a raft of recommendations being agreed by the cabinet including that solar panels be installed on every available roof on domestic, industrial and commercial buildings by 2050.

It is one of several recommendations by the climate change commission to move Essex towards net zero by 2050. That was ratified by ECC’s cabinet on Wednesday.

These also include retrofitting all buildings and homes to see domestic gas boilers replaced by carbon neutral alternatives such as heat pumps by 2040.

The commission has stated that it is essential that travel is decarbonised if ECC is to meet the UK’s climate commitments.

By 2030 it says that city centre and town car congestion should be reduced by introducing dedicated, well-planned cycling and walking routes across all urban and rural locations and to all railway stations, while upgrading and expanding the National Cycle Network.

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