Town Hall told to stop investing pension pot in fossil fuel companies
Victory in sight for long-running divestment campaign
11 October, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Labour environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison
FINANCE chiefs at the Town Hall are under pressure to remove investments from fossil-fuel burning companies, with victory in sight for a long-standing campaign for divestment.
Despite several years of protests and deputations from environmental activists, Camden has resisted taking all of its pension fund cash from firms considered to be worsening the climate crisis by causing high emissions.
Neighbouring Islington Council has already been praised for removing its pension investments, and now members of Camden’s own Citizens’ Assembly have called for the local authority here to follow suit.
They have been backed up in this demand by environmental campaign, Extinction Rebellion, Lib Dem and Green councillors, and Unison union campaigners who were at Monday’s full council meeting.
Joanne Macrae from Climate Emergency Camden
Anna Pick, who served on the Citizens’ Assembly – a panel of 50 residents selected at random who were then asked to help develop a response to the climate emergency – told the meeting: “Divesting now will make pension funds less risky in the long run, as well as more ethical.”
Joanne Macrae, from Climate Emergency, Camden which has brought together environmental campaigns from across the borough, said the council needed to act swiftly on its positive ideas. “You could immediately divest from fossil fuels,” she said.
Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt said: “Efforts should be made to work towards this, otherwise this council will be effectively propping up the very danger that it is seeking to mitigate.”
Unison convenor Liz Wheatley
Liz Wheatley convenor for Camden Unison which represents workers who will benefit from the council’s pension fund, said: “Last year, £16billion was invested in the fossil fuel industry by the local government pension scheme nationally. Yes, we want a pension, but we also want a world to spend our retirement in and this should be a straightforward quick decision, but actually it’s been rumbling on for years.”
Even some Labour backbenchers have spoken, privately, about how they find it confusing that the party has not moved to divest over several years of administration, particularly against its determination to lead a green agenda.
A similar battle was played out in terms of the council’s past investments in the tobacco industry.
Camden’s environment chief, Councillor Adam Harrison, told deputees: “You’re absolutely right to raise the question of divestment and the pension fund and the latest figures show that Camden’s pension fund has halved its fuel exposure in recent years. We’ll continue to divest.” He added that Camden would also look at other industries which were causing high emissions – the example of the cement industry was raised. “Divestment is important,” said Cllr Harrison. “But we have to be looking at absolutely everything our investments are doing in terms of the climate impact that they are having.”