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Brent Council 'must do more' do divest £40m funds from fossil fuel companies to clean energy

PUBLISHED: 14:06 29 October 2019

Divest Brent supporters. Picture: Simon Erksine

Divest Brent supporters. Picture: Simon Erksine

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A Kensal Green father has used his semi-retirement to take on the issue of Brent's pension funds being invested in fossil fuel companies.

Simon Erskine set up Divest Brent in 2017 with a petition calling on council chiefs to freeze any new investments in the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies with large carbon reserves.

The petition includes a call to shift funds to lower risk, ethical investment before May 2022.

The 66-year-old now has 10 active members and more than 1,150 signatures on his petition, including from Brent's leadership, but the problem has not gone away.

Roughly £40m of Brent's £800m pension pot is still invested in dirty energy, something critics say is both an ethical and financial problem as the climate crisis worsens and electric vehicles become more popular. A significant proportion of the cash is invested in so-called "passive funds" which automatically place the money into the shares of large companies, including gas and oil companies such as BP and Shell.

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Earlier this year protestors held a fossil fuel protest outside Barclays Bank, attended by Brent's leader Cllr Muhammed Butt, who said work was underway to divest Brent of dirty investments.

Mr Erskine said: "We have had several meetings with the council, including the Brent pension fund sub-committee, and are working with them to explore options for divestment. We appreciate that the Brent pension fund has invested in renewable energy, which is great, but it is clear that they have as yet taken no concrete steps to divest from fossil fuel companies."

Cllr Margaret McLennan, Brent's deputy leader, said: "The council's pension fund is invested to make sure that the pensions that its members are entitled to can be paid, in line with the trustees' legal and fiduciary duty.

"To meet this objective, investments are made in a wide range of assets, in line with industry best practice and to diversify the risk."

But she added: "The pensions committee will be reviewing these investments over the remainder of the year and considering new investments in low carbon, renewable and sustainable funds, both to manage shifting risk and as part of our climate emergency programme."

To sign the petition go to: campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-brent-council-from-fossil-fuels

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