The motion is being proposed by Green councillor for Redland Martin Fodor. Councillor Fodor said:
“We thought we’d see action on this back in 2015 and now the stakes are rising as the climate breakdown is emerging. Thousands of people in the city are calling for action to protect our climate but the funds behind many local pensions are still locked up in oil, gas and coal companies.
“We’ve been supporting and ‘engaging’ with fossil fuel industries rather than actually divesting from them for decades but this approach has clearly got us nowhere. It’s time to stop funding them – all they ever do is ask for government subsidies and tax credits to drill new wells and mine more coal – it’s time our pension fund saw this doesn’t work and put our money where needed for the future, and refused to fund these big polluters. Instead we have the potential to put these funds to work to create the future we need, with energy efficiency, clean power, and smart systems that will help run the economy.”
Green councillors in Bristol have been pushing for local divestment from fossil fuels for a number of years:
In December 2015 Green councillors put forward a successful motion to Full Council which called on the Council to lobby the Avon pension fund to divest and diversify away from fossil fuels. (https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/council-votes-for-fossil-free-pensions)
In March 2018 Bristol University announced plans to divest from fossil fuels following a campaign and a motion tabled at the University’s advisory body by Green councillor Carla Denyer (https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/bristol-uni-fossil-free)
In November 2018 the Green councillors passed a council motion committing Bristol council to a target of achieving carbon neutrality in Bristol by 2030. (https://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/greens-declare-a-climate-emergency-and-bring-bristols-co2-emissions-target-forwards-20-years?p=1104)
Bristol workers and retired workers make up the largest group with money in Avon Pension fund but decisions are made by Bath & North East Somerset Councils – which is why the motion calls on the Bristol Mayor to lobby them.
Full text of Councillor Fodor’s motion to the Full Council meeting is below.
Avon Pension Fund – Divestment and Diversification
This council notes:
1. In 2015 the Full Council resolved that the Avon Pension Fund (APF) should consider divestment from fossil fuels and diversification into clean technologies like renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage;
2. Council agreed that the Mayor should contact Avon Pension Fund and ask for a report on the issue;
3. There is widespread concern from scientists that declared worldwide fossil fuel reserves, if exploited, constitute a threat to the stability of the global climate;
4. There is growing recognition that fossil fuel reserves are therefore a class of asset held by investors which have growing risks of being ‘stranded’ ie left with reducing value due to the fact not all claimed reserves now have the value being imputed to them, due to the need for them to remain in the ground;
5. An ever growing number of public and private sector funds, endowments and investment portfolios are choosing to divest from fossil fuels worldwide, including several local government pension funds. MPs have now called for their own funds to be divested.
6. The recent clarifications of the fiduciary duty of fund managers confirms that they should take into account a range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and have a clear statement of investment policies;
7. The Avon Pension Fund now uses investment provided by the Brunel Pensions Partnership, which is a leading local government pension partnership offering low carbon investment opportunities.
8. Staff union Bristol Unison recently reaffirmed their clear support for divestment of the funds from fossil fuels, in a motion seconded by the Branch Secretary.
This council believes
9. The long term future of the APF is as a fund that is divested from fossil fuels and one that ensures a wide range of investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies, energy storage and smart energy technologies, and other types of investments that will benefit the city and its future residents;
10. Council recognises that a carbon neutral city will create substantial, valuable new jobs in the future sustainable economy.
11. That the investment strategy and policies of the APF should be brought into line with this vision of the future inclusive prosperity and sustainability of the city;
12. The APF should be leading this process of divestment and diversification, not waiting until the likelihood of stranded assets become more of a risk to the wealth of the fund;
13. The process of divestment and diversification is also important and should be managed in a way that ensures just transition to new employment, supporting skills development for new sectors and a range of opportunities - with backing from WECA.
This council therefore resolves to call on the Mayor
14. To meet with the head of the Avon Pension Fund to discuss the divestment of funds over the next 5 years and the review of the fund’s ESG policies
15. To promote the diversification of the fund into clean technologies that support renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage among other investments that are in line with such policies and the city’s goals for 2030;
16. To liaise with fund members in the city and council unions to explain how this secures future prosperity and pensions income while ensuring a just transition for workers in sectors that will change, and helps achieve a carbon neutral city by 2030.
Redland Ward Green party Councillor
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Green Councillors have submitted a motion to next Tuesday’s Full Council meeting (19 March) calling on Bristol’s Labour Mayor to meet with the head of Avon Pension Fund and discuss divestment of funds away from fossil fuel industries within 5 years. Despite a similar Green motion passed in 2015 (1), the Avon Pension Fund continues to hold significant investments in fossil fuel industries. A recent UN study found that resource extraction industries are responsible for half of the world’s carbon emissions and more than 80% of biodiversity loss. (2) Bristol’s branch of local government union UNISON (the second largest union in the UK) also backs the campaign for pension fund divestment.
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