New figures published today reveal that the Strathclyde Pension Fund (SPF), managed by Glasgow City Council, has an estimated £709 million invested in fossil fuel companies.[1]

The fund provides pensions to 11 local authorities in the West of Scotland.

The total investment in fossil fuels has changed negligibly since the last such assessment was carried out in 2017, despite Glasgow City Council declaring a climate emergency in 2019.

The new figures include an estimated £530 million of the fossil fuel investment outsourced to third parties – a tripling of such investments since 2017 – and £180 million invested directly by City officials in companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total, and ENI.

SPF also bought an £8 million stake in oil company BP just months after the City declared a climate emergency.

The data are published in conjunction with local volunteer groups Divest Strathclyde and Fossil Free Glasgow with Friends of the Earth Scotland. They come just days before City Councillors are due to debate divestment.

Flares light up the sky at night, Mossmorran, Fife.

Shell and Exxon’s Mossmorran gas plants, Fife. Strathclyde pensions were found to invest millions in both companies. Photo by Richard Webb.

In 2019, the Council’s Climate Emergency Group recommended ‘a wholesale shift away from investment in hydrocarbons’ was required to address the climate crisis.[2] The SPF’s draft response, published on Friday, rejects divestment, proposing indefinite continued investment in fossil fuels. It will be debated at a Committee meeting on Wednesday.

The figures will be embarrassing for Glasgow City Council who are due to host the 2020 UN climate talks having declared a climate emergency and set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, which they described as ‘an opportunity to show leadership globally’.[3]

Geraldine Clayton, Strathclyde fund member and campaigner with Divest Strathclyde, commented:

‘Our pension funds are meant to be all about planning for the future. Every pound currently being invested in fossil fuel companies is funding activity that is endangering our future. How can Glasgow claim to be addressing the climate emergency when the council pension fund is invested in climate polluters?

‘We need to take our money out of fossil fuel and invest it instead in renewable energy and other sustainable industries.’

Activists hold a banner saying 'Divest Now'.

Geraldine Clayton (front left) with Divest Strathclyde members.

Stephen Smellie, Depute Convener of UNISON Scotland added:

‘UNISON is disappointed in the lack of progress SPF have made in addressing climate change.

‘Their continued investment in fossil fuels makes them more part of the problem than part of the solution that they could be.

‘UNISON will continue to campaign for Strathclyde Pension Fund and the Councillors who sit on it, to face up to their responsibilities and begin a process of divesting from those companies who are destroying our climate.’

Margaux Marshall Extinction Rebellion Glasgow said:

‘The Strathclyde Pension Fund consistently charts in the two top largest investors in fossil fuels amongst the UK’s public pension funds. With the UN Climate talks coming to Glasgow in November, all eyes will be on the city to show climate leadership. We hope this major civic institution will act in the interests of current and future pensioners, as well as for the wellbeing of all, in committing to divest from fossil fuel companies.’

Cathel Hutchison from Fossil Free Glasgow emphasised that:

‘Divestment offers an unprecedented opportunity for the SPF to chart a more ethical and sustainable course. We challenge them to follow in the footsteps of institutions such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, by committing to re-invest in companies working to reduce pollution, create innovative renewable energy solutions, and support a just transition at home and in developing countries.’

Divestment from fossil fuels is widely regarded as an essential method for tackling climate change. Senior economists including Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, as well as environmental campaigners including Greta Thunberg have argued that fossil fuel investments are incompatible with mitigating climate change and have advocated for policies of divestment.

Policies of divestment from fossil fuels have already been announced by over half of UK universities, Reading and Oxford councils, the Welsh Parliament, New York City, the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund. Over 300 UK MPs have pledged support for divesting their own pension fund. Worldwide, approximately $12 trillion has been divested. [4]

CONTACT

Lewis Coenen-Rowe, diveststrathclyde@gmail.com.

PHOTOS

Free to use photos to accompany this story can be found here:
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-gW_egFd3Ib-t2vchGT7e4zzxHXzINZC?usp=sharing

Photographers are invited to a rally on Wednesday, 10am, outside the City Chambers to time with the Glasgow City Council Pension Fund meeting:
https://www.facebook.com/events/2395523964027740/

NOTES

[1] Figures were obtained via freedom of information requests for the investments made by the Strathclyde Pension Fund as of the 2018-19 financial year. All companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels were included. Utilities were excluded. Estimate of indirect holdings used data from https://fossilfreefunds.org/. The data may be viewed in full at: http://bit.ly/spf_ff_investments

[2] http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/viewDoc.asp?c=P62AFQDN0GZLZ3DNDX

[3] https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/article/25066/Council-Sets-Target-Of-Carbon-Neutral-Glasgow-by-2030

[4] https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/

[5] http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/viewSelectedDocument.asp?c=P62AFQDNT1DNUTDNZL

[6] The data are published by:

* Divest Strathclyde, who campaign on the Strathclyde Pension Fund to divest from the fossil fuel industry and invest in environmentally and financially sustainable alternatives. www.facebook.com/DivestStrathclyde

* Fossil Free Glasgow, who campaign for Glasgow to sever ties with the fossil fuel industry and to divest through intersectional community organising. www.facebook.com/fossilfreeglasgow

* Friends of the Earth Scotland, Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland, and part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world. www.foe.scot