A cross-party group of Councillors are calling for the Lothian Pension Fund, run by the City of Edinburgh Council, to divest from fossil fuels.

13 Councillors from the SNP, Labour and Green parties have signed a pledge saying: “I call on the Lothian Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels”.

The Edinburgh Evening News, who made the announcement, described it as an “extraordinary coalition”, including four SNP Councillors from Edinburgh and Midlothian, all Edinburgh’s Green Councillors, and one Labour Councillor. (1)

The announcement comes just days before Wednesday’s quarterly meeting of the Council Pension Committee meeting where a report on the carbon footprint of the Lothian Pension Fund – and what should be done about it – will be discussed. The report backs continued investment in fossil fuels. (2)

The SNP’s Amy McNeese-Mechan said “Scotland is already a world leader in renewable energy and is committed to doing its part in tackling climate change. We need to aim for a society in which our investment decisions contribute to our goal of creating a flourishing low carbon economy.”

Green Councillor Claire Miller said she signed the pledge because: “Climate scientists tell us we cannot extract any more fossil fuels if we intend to limit man-made climate change. Pension fund members shouldn’t be risking their retirement income on investments that won’t stand the test of time.”

Labour’s Mandy Watt said: “Other local councils, together with members of their community, have made a compelling case for divesting from fossil fuels. Surely, in light of this, other pension funds must consider divesting.”

The Lothian Pension Fund is administered by the City of Edinburgh Council and provides pensions for 75,913 staff and former staff of the City of Edinburgh, West Lothian, East Lothian and Midlothian councils, Scottish Water, Visit Scotland, Edinburgh Leisure, Edinburgh College, universities including Heriot-­Watt and Napier, and 80 other charities and public bodies in the Lothians.

As of 2017 the Fund was valued at £6.6 billion, £153 million of which was invested in oil, gas and coal companies including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP. (3)

In January the University of Edinburgh pledged to divest from fossil fuels within three years citing financial concerns. They followed in the footsteps of local government pension funds such as Southwark and Waltham Forest in England.

The campaign is organised by the group Divest Lothian who have published a briefing setting out the case for divestment, focusing on the financial and ethical case for action. (3)

Amanda Grimm, Divest Lothian spokesperson said: “It’s really encouraging to see Edinburgh’s Councillors following the path laid by our Universities and MPs in calling for an end to fossil fuel investment. Fossil fuel companies’ time is up: they are not only damaging our climate, they’re also failing to plan for the future, making them a highly risky investment. This could be a pivotal moment where money and political power unite to push for a brighter future for people here in the Lothians, and around the world.”

Jude Ferguson is a member of the Lothian Pension Fund. She said “I’m investing in my pension for a better tomorrow. Investing in fossil fuels to increase the value is not a price worth paying. Investing in people and in the planet is the only way we can all have a better tomorrow.”

The total funds who have made fossil fuel divestment commitments across the world are now estimated to be valued at over $6.15 trillion dollars. Pledges to fully divest have come from UK local councils, the Church of Ireland, half of Scotland’s Universities, and BMO Responsible (4). The UK campaign for council pension fund divestment is also supported by the trade union UNISON.

Ric Lander, Divestment Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Scotland commented: “It’s great to see Lothian Councillors across party lines supporting the call for divestment from fossil fuels. Investment decisions made by pension funds will shape everyone’s future and so we all need to get involved. With this political support the Lothian Pension Fund could now take a historic opportunity to be the first council pension fund in Scotland to commit to going fossil free.”

Last month Lothian MP’s signed a pledge to support divestment of their own pension fund including Labour’s Ian Murray and Danielle Rowley, the SNP’s Deidre Brock, Joanna Cherry and Tommy Sheppard, and the Liberal Democrat’s Christine Jardine. (5)

ENDS

PHOTOS

High resolution photos of a selection of Councillors who have signed the pledge holding a divestment placard can be found here:
http://bit.ly/DivestLothianCllrPhotos

Additional high resolution photos of the Divest Lothian campaign group can be found here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/41661733275
https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/40244906484
https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/40753157110
https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/16556706791
https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/42561007731
https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/40830181430

Contact details:
Ric Lander, FoES Divestment Campaigner
t: 0131 243 2718
e: rlander@foe.scot

NOTES

1. A full list of Councillors signing the pledge (“I call on the Lothian Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels”) follows:

  • Dianne Alexander, SNP, Midlothian, Bonnyrigg
  • Colin Cassidy, SNP, Midlothian, Dalkeith
  • Kenneth Baird, SNP, Midlothian, Midlothian East
  • Claire Miller, Green, Edinburgh, City Centre
  • Alex Staniforth, Green, Edinburgh, Craigentinny / Duddingston
  • Gavin Corbett, Green, Edinburgh, Fountainbridge / Craiglockhart
  • Chas Booth, Green, Edinburgh, Leith
  • Amy McNeese-Mechan, SNP, Edinburgh, Leith Walk
  • Susan Rae, Green, Edinburgh, Leith Walk
  • Melanie Main, Green, Edinburgh, Meadows / Morningside
  • Mandy Watt, Labour, Edinburgh, Meadows / Morningside
  • Mary Campbell, Green, Edinburgh, Portobello / Craigmillar
  • Steve Burgess, Green ,Edinburgh, Southside / Newington

Councillors can add their name by emailing their support to divestlothian@gmail.com.

2. City of Edinburgh Council Pension Committee paper on carbon footprinting: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/57587/item_57_-_climate_change_risk_and_carbon_footprinting

3. The Divest Lothian campaign have produced a briefing explaining the arguments behind divestment from fossil fuels. This can be downloaded from: http://bit.ly/DivestLothianBriefing. For more information about Divest Lothian visit their Facebook page at: http://facebook.com/divestlothian/.

4. Full list of global commitments to divest: https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/

5. Edinburgh and Lothian MPs Back Growing Calls for Fossil Fuel Divestment
https://foe.scot/press-release/edinburgh-and-lothian-mps-back-growing-calls-for-fossil-fuel-divestment/

6. 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, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.
www.foe.scot