Councillors pledge action on Fife’s polluted pensions
Councillors from the SNP and Liberal Democrat parties have pledged to clean up the Fife Pension Fund by pushing for the end to it investing in fossil fuels. Fife Pension Fund invests an estimated £96.6 million in the companies that are driving the climate crisis.
The four new councillors, David Barratt, Brian Goodall, Sarah Neal, Rosemary Liewald (all SNP) and Jonny Tepp (Liberal Democrat), committed to pushing for change to the way the pension fund invests its money. While campaigning for election, they signed a pledge that read: “If elected, I will do all I can to ensure the council pension fund ends investment in fossil fuels and invests in a just transition to a zero carbon economy”.
The Fife Pension Fund website shows that as of March 2022, it invests in coal mining companies Anglo American and Glencore, and oil giants BP, Total and BHP. A 2021 investigation by Friends of the Earth Scotland estimated the fund’s fossil fuel investments to be £96.6 million invested in fossil fuels.
In June 2021 Fife Council passed a motion by Cllr David Barratt to investigate fossil fuel divestment. This led to an agreement in September from the pension fund to develop further proposals and consider divesting from some of the most extremely polluting companies. However, despite discussion of winding down fossil fuels at the UN climate talks in November, no further action has been reported by the Fife Pension Fund.
Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“It is fantastic to see the call for fossil fuel divestment resonate with Fife councillors. The opportunity is there for Fife to take a lead in ending the money pipeline between councils and the fossil fuel industry.
“As skyrocketing energy bills are set to plunge millions of people into fuel poverty across the UK, local councils can and should be investing pensions into renewable energy – cutting our emissions and making our communities more resilient.
“Divesting from fossil fuels is also a powerful act of solidarity. Communities across the world are threatened by extreme weather, rising sea and disease due to the climate crisis which is being driven by fossil fuels.”
Fife MSPs Claire Baker (Labour), Mark Ruskell (Green) and Alex Rowley (Labour) have given the issue further weight by supporting fossil fuel divestment of the Scottish Parliament pensions.
The Fife Pension Fund provides pensions to council employees, emergency service workers, and staff at Scotland’s Rural College, Fife College and Fife Sport and Leisure. As of 2021 the fund was valued at £3.3 billion.
The pledge from Fife councillors comes as part of a global push to divest money from fossil fuels. To date, 1,508 institutions worth $40.43 trillion have committed to divest, including the Welsh Parliament, the London Boroughs of Islington and Lambeth, Cardiff Council, and 93 UK universities including those of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
- The complete list of 2022 council candidates who supported the pledge can be found here:
- In March 2022 Fife Council published a list of their current investments:
- Friends of the Earth Scotland analysed the Fife Pension Fund’s March 2021 investments using data obtained by Freedom of Information request:
The analysis estimated the fossil fuel investments to total £96,612,568. A breakdown of our analysis is available on request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ‘Fife Council takes ‘First positive step’ to divesting fossil fuel stocks from pension fund’, June 2021
- In 28 September 2021 the Fife Council Superannuation Fund and Pensions Committee approved a motion that “a Development session would be organised, providing specialist investment and legal advice as well as the opportunity for in-depth discussion, questions, and debate to explore the topic on Fossil Fuel Investment further; and agreed to the following additional recommendations to the report:
– noted that the agreed Statement of Responsible Investment Principles (SRIP) sets out our aim that all holdings covered by the Transition Pathway Initiative will have a business plan whose carbon performance is in-line with the Paris agreement or better by 2025;
– agreed that the SRIP should be updated following COP26 to reflect any changes to international agreements on climate change;
– agreed that the Fund should consider divestment from companies who fail to meet this ambition; and
– agreed that the Fund should consider divestment and avoid new investment in fossil fuel companies which are not covered by the Transition Pathway Initiative and that a working definition of a fossil fuel company should be established for this purpose.” (Full minutes can be found here:
- A full list of MSPs and organisations supporting fossil fuel divestment can be found here:
- Fife Pension Fund 2021-22 Annual Report
8. A full list of global divestment commitments can be found here: https://divestmentdatabase.org/