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Thursday, 21st Dec 2017

Bristol Green councillors welcome progress on clean energy from Pension Funds – but it’s still not divestment

Following a long-running campaign by Greens and other activists, Martin Fodor (Green Councillor for Redland) met with representatives of the Brunel Pension Partnership to hear about the fund’s new investments in sustainable and renewable energy. The Brunel Partnership is a conglomeration of 10 pension funds worth a total of £28 billion, including the Avon Pension Fund that covers Bristol City Council and other local authorities in the area.

The campaign for large institutional local pension funds to divest from fossil fuels has been running for years – two years ago Green councillors in Bristol proposed a successful motion to Full Council which called on the Council to lobby the Avon pension fund to divest and diversify from fossil fuels. The recent update from the Brunel Partnership showed significant investments in cleaner energy projects, and tougher ethical and sustainable criteria for all new investments, but slow progress towards actual divestment of funds away from fossil fuels.

Councillor Fodor said:

“This was always going to be a slow process but I’m glad to see that progress is starting to be made as large funds begin to shift towards renewables. It’s great that following our campaigning, more money from these funds will be going to environmentally sound energy projects, and that more green criteria are being used for all new funding received. We’re going to keep the pressure up for clearer reporting and monitoring, to prove fossil and carbon liabilities are being eliminated. At the end of the day we want to see evidence that people’s money is going to the right places, not just engagement with companies promising incremental action in the face of climate warnings. Real action is urgently needed to achieve the Paris climate targets and head off runaway climate change.

“But it doesn’t end here. We’ve been campaigning around large institutional funds like the Avon Pension Fund. But now the UK government has changed its rules for private pension funds, anyone can write to their pension provider and have their say on where their money is being invested. Environmental, social and governance issues are valid factors to help ensure the funds are fulfilling their long term fiduciary (pension investment return) obligations. Not only that, but asking your provider to divest from fossil fuels will help support a UK-wide shift into renewable energy. Pension funds are incredibly powerful investors and collective action from enough people will help to push them to focus on long term risks and opportunities for the benefit of the whole country.”

The second largest trade union in the country, Unison, also supports the campaign. Unison members in the area form a significant percentage of the pension fund membership. A representative from the Bristol branch of Unison gave the following statement:

“The Bristol Unison branch has actively supported this campaign since its early days and made its own request to Avon Pension Fund (APF) to move its endowment away from fossil fuel companies, and towards investment in renewable energy. We were delighted when the National conference of Unison also voted in June 2017 to seek divestment of Local Government Pension Schemes from fossil fuels. The current effects of Climate Change are hitting the poorest, least empowered workers in the world the hardest and Unison recognises that they need our support. We are delighted to see that, at last, there is a move in APF towards more positive investment in renewables. We look forward to hearing of further progress towards complete divestment from fossil fuels.”

Background:

- In December 2015 Green councillors in Bristol put forward a successful motion to Full Council which called on the Council to lobby the Avon pension fund to divest and diversify away from fossil fuels. (https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/council-votes-for-fossil-free-pensions)

- Earlier this year Bristol University announced new plans to divest its endowment fund from the most carbon intensive fossil fuel sectors, following campaigning and Court motions submitted by Green councillor Carla Denyer (https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/bristol-university-announces-divestment-plans)

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