Campaigners from across the conurbation came together to launch Divest West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) outside Wolverhampton Council today.
The campaign is pushing for West Midlands Pensions Fund, to divest the £355 million it has invested in fossil fuels. The pension fund covers workers for Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton local authorities.
Divest WMPF campaigners including members of Birmingham Friends of the Earth, and the Green Party held a banner outside the council offices, as well as leafletting and petitioning passers-by. At the end of the action campaigners handed in letters to members of the Pension Fund asking them to divest.
Research by 350.org, Platform, Friends of the Earth and others, shows that:
- The WMPF is investing over £145 per resident in fossil fuels.
- Money is invested into multinational fossil fuel companies including over £58 million in Shell and and £43 million in BP.
With 80% of reserves needing to remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, there has been growing concerns about the long-term financial risks of fossil fuel investments.
This data, available on the Fossil Free website, offers the residents of the West Midlands the information they need to ask why their Councils are choosing to invest in risky oil, gas or coal.
Instead, the Pension Fund could reinvest this money into building new homes, clean renewable energy or public transport.
Kay Edwards, on behalf of Divest WMPF, said:
“Many people represented by the West Midlands Pension Fund will be concerned to learn that their future is tied up with such a risky and polluting industry.
“When governments do act to prevent dangerous climate change, the business model for fossil fuel companies will be over, and that day is fast approaching.
“And, if oil and gas companies keep on drilling in their final days, it will make climate change far worse – it is the right decision both financially and ethically for the West Midlands Pension Fund to divest as soon as possible.”
Annie Randall of Birmingham Friends of the Earth said:
“Most fund members and taxpayers won’t be happy to learn that their money is funding climate change.
“As local residents we’re calling on the WMPF to stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”
Recent analysis found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS & CalSTRS, incurred a combined loss of over $5 billion in the last year alone from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.
This is the first time that the £231 billion investments of local government public money have ever been broken down and released publicly, and their exposure to fossil fuels quantified.
The data shows that the 192 councils in the UK have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels via their pension funds. Three quarters of these direct fossil fuel shareholdings are in only ten companies, headed by BP and Shell.