Local Liberal Democrat Councillors have begun the fight to make the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, one of the largest municipal pension funds in the UK, ‘green’.
The Oldham Liberal Democrats first proposed that Oldham Council declare a Climate Emergency and were delighted to support the Administration’s ambition to achieve carbon-neutrality for Oldham Council by 2025 and for the Borough by 2030.
In March Group Leader, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE wrote to the Council’s representative on the Greater Manchester Pension Fund management advisory board calling for it ‘to rapidly divest from fossil fuels’. He has yet to receive a reply nearly a month later.
In March 2019, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund held investments of £1.71 billion in fossil fuel companies and funds. The biggest holdings are in BP and Shell.
Councillor Sykes explained: “There was a meeting of the pension fund’s advisory board on 19 March and I wrote to the Council’s Deputy Leader to ask him, as our representative, to raise our concerns. It is wrong for Oldham Council and the other Greater Manchester authorities, who are committed to tackling climate change, to support a fund which continues to hold sizable investments in fossil fuel businesses.”
The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has only made a vague commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, justifying its target by citing fiduciary duty and the need to make the best possible returns for investors. Councillor Sykes is not impressed.
“This at a moment in our history when time is fast running out to arrest irreversible climate change; if this does not happen our future pensioners will hardly appreciate the benefits of fiduciary duty when they are struggling to breathe,” added Councillor Sykes. “It’s time for GMPF to stop making excuses and to use its expertise and investments to rapidly divest from fossil fuels and thereby help to create a safer, healthier future for all GM residents.”
Councillor Sykes concluded: “I now hope that the Deputy Leader will furnish me a reply as soon as possible. Climate change is above party politics and I hope that can work together on this issue to help make the Greater Manchester Pension Fund fossil fuel free in the future.”