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Adur and Worthing Councils urge divestment of pension funds

Released: Thursday, 16 January 2020

Pension bosses are being urged to divest funds away from fossil fuels by Adur & Worthing Councils.

As part of stepping up its response to the climate emergency, councillors on both authorities agreed the millions of pounds invested by the West Sussex Pension Fund - of which its staff are members - should be done in an environmentally-conscious way.

Adur and Worthing members agreed it is time for a rethink on how capital is used, with the Councils' Chief Executive writing to County Hall with a formal request on their behalf.

The aim is to encourage a move away from investing in companies that generate revenues from oil, gas and coal as part of wider efforts to tackle climate change.

Councillor Neil Parkin, Leader of Adur District Council, said:

“After declaring a climate emergency, it's vital that we as civic leaders show leadership on this extremely important issue.”

“Divestment will send an extremely important message that we are serious about moving away from fossil fuels, which is why the Council was unanimous in urging West Sussex Pension Fund to take this action.”

Councillor Daniel Humphreys, Leader of Worthing Borough Council, said:

“Oil and gas have been major contributors to pension funds in the past but now is the time to think again.”

“A move away will not be easy; but we believe it should be looked at sooner rather than later which is why we have submitted this request.”

Both Adur and Worthing Full Councils passed motions at meetings last month.

The motions noted that both Councils were taking steps to:

“put their own house in order”.

This includes creating a robust Carbon Reduction Plan which works towards carbon neutrality by 2030; working with businesses, community groups and individuals to take the agenda forward; and working up practical ways of responding to the climate crisis.

The motion concluded that:

“This Council now calls upon the Trustees of the West Sussex County Council Local Authority Pension Fund (of which the Councils' employees are members) to divest that fund of all investments in fossil fuel stocks, equities and funds.”

The agreement by both Councils means the Chief Executive has now written an open letter to the Trustees of the fund and asked them to take action.

Currently, the investment strategy by West Sussex County Council Pension Fund notes that it:

“does not take into account non-financial factors when selecting, retaining, or realising its investments”

adding:

“good practice in terms of social, environmental and corporate governance issues is likely to impact positively on companies' financial performance.”

According to Friends of the Earth, UK councils are investing more than £16 billion of workers' pensions in fossil fuel companies.

(PR20-006)

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