Last night, Dudley Council voted unanimously on a cross-party motion calling on the council’s pension fund to divest from fossil fuels, demonstrating a commitment to action on climate change and reducing the financial risk to pension members.
The motion, which was tabled by Councillor Pete Lowe, received full support from across the council members. It follows a trend of councils passing motions to divest from fossil fuels. This is amid growing concern about the impacts of climate change and a responsibility to reduce financial risk for pension members.
In his speech Councillor Lowe said:
“Tackling such a colossal challenge requires action at all levels – international, national, and local. That is why I have decided to bring this motion forward.”
Labour Leader in Dudley Cllr Qadar Zada said:
“We all have a responsibility to play our part in reducing carbon emissions and this motion will put further pressure on fossil fuel companies to put more effort into the adoption of renewable energy. Our message is simple pollution doesn’t pay.”
Councillor Simon Phipps who successfully tabled a Conservative amendment to the motion said:
I’m so pleased that this motion attracted the unanimous support of Dudley Council. Climate change is the biggest threat facing our society and public organisations have a responsibility to lead change. Members of the pension fund should now be given the opportunity to see that this course of action will not detrimentally affect the fund financially. I hope that the members of the Fund will see that this is the right thing to do, as this will help to ensure that the West Midlands is a leading region in the quest for a carbon neutral society.
Prior to the meeting a vigil was held outside Dudley Council Chamber, relaying to councillors the wide public support for divestment. The vigil was organised by the group Divest West Midlands Pension Fund (DivestWMPF) and Dudley Green Party. DivestWMPF have been campaigning for the fund to remove its investments in fossil fuels for four years.
Kay Edwards, from DivestWMPF, who is a Dudley resident and pension fund member said:
“We are delighted that Dudley have voted for this motion which will build momentum for the West Midlands to end destructive fossil fuel funding. Shell, BP and other fossil fuel companies have no place in public pension funds, as they continue to pour investment into new oil and gas projects.”
West Midlands Pension Fund, is one of the top 25 institutional pension funds in the country, and has an estimated £490 million invested in fossil fuel companies. These companies are continuing to invest in new projects which undermine climate targets and put shareholder returns at risk.
This motion follows a trend in the UK. So far 12 councils have passed motions committing to divest their pensions from fossil fuels, including Birmingham City Council who committed to divestment in July 2017. The motion follows increasing local concern about the climate emergency. In September, 3,000 protestors gathered in Birmingham, and protests were also held in Wolverhampton, Dudley and other locations all around the West Midlands, with demands for more urgency in tackling climate change.
DivestWMPF are continuing to call for the other local councils in the West Midlands Pension Fund including Wolverhampton to add their voices to the call to divest the Fund from fossil fuels.