Scottish Council pension funds investing £1.7bn in polluting organisations

Written by Talya Misiri

Scottish Council pension funds are investing close to £1.7bn in polluting, fossil fuel organisations, a new report has found.

Research by Common Weal, Unison Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland have learned that Scottish Council pension funds have a current total of £1,683.3m invested in fossil fuels. Regardless of the Paris climate deal to tackle climate change, this figure is unchanged from 2015/16.

The total investment means that each pension fund member has the equivalent of £3,300 invested in fossil fuels.

The Glasgow City Council administered Strathclyde pension fund in particular has the largest individual total in Scotland of £889m invested in these damaging firms. At the other end of the scale, the Scottish council with the least invested is Orkney with £8.2m in fossil fuels.

Of the Scottish Council funds, a total of only £234m is invested in renewables and social housing projects and only 6 of 11 Scottish councils running funds have ever discussed climate change at board levels.

In comparison, five local council pension funds in the rest of the UK have agreed to completely cut their fossil fuel investments. These are the Environment Agency Pension Fund, Harringey, Waltham Forest, Southwark and South Yorkshire.

Nonetheless, the research did find that Strathclyde, Falkirk and Lothian Pension Funds invest a combined £234 million in renewable energy and social housing. While this is positive, it only accounts for 0.7 per cent of the Scotland-wide scheme’s value.

Friends of the Earth Scotland divestment campaigner and report author Ric Lander said: “Council pension funds have huge clout and can shape our future. It's time they used this power to invest in a future worth living in.

“Only three councils have any investments in social housing and renewable energy in Scotland despite strong returns available and many local benefits of these schemes. The majority of council pensions are invested in stocks and shares, which bring few tangible local benefits.

“Divesting from fossil fuels is an opportunity to contribute to a brighter future and put money back into local economies.”

Unison’s Scottish organiser Dave Watson commented: "Too many of our pension funds are investing in obsolete technologies and risking our members hard earned contributions. The future of energy is green, and it is within sight. Our pension funds need to be part of the future, not the past."

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