Glasgow City Councillors deferred a decision on what to do with over £500 million of fossil fuel investments today, whilst agreeing that divestment could take place in principle.

As one of Europe’s largest pension funds any move by the Strathclyde Pension Fund would be historic, but the issue remains unresolved.

A decision on if they will stop investing in fossil fuels must now take place at a crunch meeting of the Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee in September if they are to agree to divest before the UN climate talks COP26.

Environmental campaigners are calling for strong climate standards and a clear timeline to be agreed in the coming months to ensure that divestment from coal, oil and gas producers will happen.

The Strathclyde Pension Fund is the joint largest local government fund in the UK, investing over £24 billion on behalf of 250,000 fund members in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. A Friends of the Earth Scotland study estimated the Fund holds £508 million of investments in highly polluting fossil fuel companies, including Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon.

Local government pension funds in Cardiff, Waltham Forest and Lambeth have already committed to go fossil fuel free, but the Strathclyde Pension Fund would be the largest UK pension fund to divest so far.

Over 500 people signed an open letter over the weekend to support fossil fuel divestment following an overwhelming vote of support from Glasgow City Council in April. Covid-safe protests also took place on Saturday and Monday with Divest Strathclyde and Extinction Rebellion Glasgow.

It is hoped that Glasgow Councillors will now work with funds that have already committed to divest to develop strong standards over the coming months.

Geraldine Clayton, Strathclyde Pension fund member and climate activist, said:

“As a retired member of Strathclyde Pension Fund, I don’t want my pension to be invested in the fossil fuel companies that are most responsible for causing the climate crisis, and I am pleased that the Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee is taking an important step today towards ending the pension fund’s £500 million fossil fuel investments.

“However, the Pension Fund Committee has not yet announced the minimum standards which it will use to decide whether to continue investing in companies. We now need councillors to ensure that the pension fund divests from climate-wrecking fossil fuels.

“Oil prices may rise and fall in the short term, but shares in fossil fuels are increasingly being seen as risky investments by the financial sector. Without government bailouts oil and gas companies would have been really struggling during the past couple of years. They are no longer the rock solid option they used to be. It makes no sense for the Strathclyde Pension Fund to continue investing in fossil fuels when it should be directing all its resources into creating a safer world for future generations.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Divestment Campaigner Sally Clark said:

“The decision by Councillors today is a positive step, but there is much more to do in order to set Scotland’s largest public pension fund on a fossil free path.

“Oil, gas and coal companies’ business model relies on worsening the climate emergency, damaging communities in Scotland and globally. Councillors, fund members and concerned citizens will be waiting to see if a possible showdown meeting in September will deliver the definitive standards and timelines that mean actual divestment from fossil fuels.

“Similar funds such as the Cardiff, Lambeth and Waltham Forest pension funds have already committed to go fossil fuel free and the Strathclyde Pension Fund can join them.

“The timing is critical. Divestment from climate polluters could provide global leadership as Glasgow prepares to host the crucial UN climate talks, helping lead billions of pounds into green investments. Glasgow can show that support for coal, oil and gas companies is incompatible with the action we need to avoid further climate breakdown.

“Huge praise must go to those local campaigners who have fought hard for years to convince our leaders that ending investments in fossil fuels is the right thing to do for people and the planet.”

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of the climate crisis, yet fossil fuel companies are still working to increase their production of oil and gas. Last week a Dutch court ordered oil giant Shell to immediately drastically reduce its climate emissions. The company’s activities and plans were judged not to be in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Pressure for action to end the production of fossil fuels is increasing as Glasgow prepares to host the crucial UN climate summit this November. Calls for divestment have come from fund members, trade unions, local and national politicians.

In April, Glasgow City Councillors voted by a majority of 69 votes to 4 in support of divesting the pension fund from fossil fuels, but only the Pension Fund Committee is competent to enact divestment from fossil fuels.

NOTES

On Monday, protestors held a small physically-distanced protest outside Glasgow City Chambers. Free to use, print quality photos are available at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/11ZufpfnUEu0lFY_iHMLg1DXRzmc68wM0

Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform provided a briefing to the Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee for their meeting on Wed 2 Jun which can be downloaded here: https://foe.scot/resource/briefing-for-the-strathclyde-pension-fund-committee-2-june-2021/

Friends of the Earth Scotland investigation finds Strathclyde Pension Fund invests an estimated £508 million in fossil fuels
https://foe.scot/press-release/revealed-scottish-council-pensions-invest-1-2billion-in-fossil-fuel-polluters/

Historic victory: judge forces Shell to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
https://www.foei.org/features/historic-victory-judge-forces-shell-to-drastically-reduce-co2-emissions

Open Letter to Glasgow City Council Pensions Commitee https://www.gcop.scot/divest-strathclyde/diveststrathclydeopenletter/

Divest Strathclyde is the campaign to get the Strathclyde Pension Fund to drop investments in fossil fuel companies and other big polluters, and re-invest the money in ethical and sustainable alternatives.
https://www.gcop.scot/divest-strathclyde/

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, 73 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.
www.foe.scot