Climate campaigners urge Brent Council to divest £40m pension investment from fossil fuels

Climate campaigner Simon Erskine (right) outside City Hall in November with Green Party London Assem

Climate campaigner Simon Erskine (right) outside City Hall in November with Green Party London Assembly members Caroline Russell and Sian Berry. - Credit: Archant

Climate change campaigners are putting pressure on Brent Council to remove £40million of pension investments from fossil fuel companies to protect both the environment and town hall workers.

Part of Brent’s pension pot is still invested in dirty energy, something critics say is both an ethical and financial problem as the climate changes and electric vehicles become more popular.

Their campaign, Divest Brent, was set up by Simon Erskine. It calls for the council to stop any new investments in the top 200 publically traded fossil fuel companies, move to other pension funds, and work on a strategy to bring about full divestment within three months of the petition submission.

Simon is also a member of Brent’s Friends of the Earth group and started his campaign in September.

“There’s a lot of sympathy among the Labour-led council,” he said. “I’ve already met with the pension funds committee but they said they couldn’t do very much before the election because all energies have been focused on that. I’m hoping to arrange another meeting after the election.”

Simon said investment in fossil fuels was becoming financially risky, especially after the Paris climate change agreement.

He told the Brent & Kilburn Times: “If people are moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, they will not be able to sell what’s in their reserves. That means the value of the shares is too high.

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“The governor of the bank of England has issued several warnings about this.”

He believes the council should instead invest the money into renewable energy.

“We don’t think it’s going to happen overnight,” he said, “but what we have done is ask council candidates to pledge their support for divestment before the next council elections in 2022.”

A council spokesman hinted change could lie ahead because the Brent pension fund is now part of the new London Collective Investment Vehicle, a £25billion pool of investments pooled and shared by all 32 London boroughs. “Many of our current investments will therefore be sold and reinvested with the London CIV,” he said, “and an overarching policy on responsible investing will be in place to ensure environmental, social and governance considerations are taken into account with regard to investment decisions.”

He said the council had a duty to provide decent pension returns, but added some types of investment meant third parties, not the town hall, chose where to put the money. At any rate, some of the fund is invested in cleaner energy.