Last week, as councillors gathered in West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s office Aldermanbury House, for a meeting of the Investment Advisory Panel, climate activists stood outside with a banner saying ’40 degrees’ and tried to engage with the councillors as they entered the building. Campaigners are angry at the failure of West Yorkshire Pension Fund, which is overseen by Bradford Council, to pull all of its investments out of climate polluting fossil fuel companies, like Shell and BP.
West Yorkshire Pension Fund
The West Yorkshire Pension Fund is responsible for the pension investments of people employed in all five West Yorkshire councils and many other organisations, including schools. It is one of the largest local government pension funds in the UK.
Bradford Council has overall responsibility for managing the fund but investment decisions are made by the Investment Advisory Panel of WYPF. This is made up of councillors from all West Yorkshire councils and representatives from the Trade Unions GMB and Unison, as well as active and retired members of WYPF. Councillor Andrew Thornton is chair of the Investment Advisory Panel.
The Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaign is calling for the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel investments. The campaign has support from a wide range of local residents, WYPF members and organisations across the region.
Sick of excuses
Jane Thewlis, spokesperson for the campaign group and WYPF pension member, said:
Fast track to climate disaster
“We are on a fast track to climate disaster. Major cities underwater. Unprecedented heatwaves. Terrifying storms. Widespread water shortages. The extinction of a million species of plants and animals. This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies … Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying.”
People are dying
In response to the calls from Fossil Free West Yorkshire, Bingley Cllr Joe Wheatley (Labour), said: “This summer there’s been an extreme heat wave in Pakistan and India with temperatures reaching 51C – it’s been going on for months. People are losing their crops, their animals and there are serious water shortages. People are dying. This is what climate change means in practice – extreme weather conditions that make it impossible for life to continue as before. We had 40C in the UK last week. We have to act while there’s still time to stop the worst from happening.”
Ann West also from Bradford, joined the protest. She gets her pension from the WYPF and she explained: “I’m here today because I’m no longer prepared to be fobbed off by my Pension Fund’s excuses for inaction. Enough is enough – they must begin divesting from all fossil fuels this year. We all depend on the same climate and we all share responsibility for protecting our planet. I want my grandchildren to live in a safe and peaceful world but climate change is making that impossible.”
Urgent need to divest from fossil fuels
After the meeting it was reported that the panel was increasingly acknowledging that fossil fuel divestment was inevitable over the longer term with pressure growing from the five local authorities in West Yorkshire and recognition that more work needs to be done on how to divest.
Thewlis concluded by saying, “Fossil fuels are burning our future and not a safe investment. We will not give up until our elected representatives see fit to protect our future”.