Over £15m of Scottish Borders Council pensions invested in fossil fuels

Environmental campaigners are calling on Scottish Borders Council to end its £15m pensions investment in fossil fuels.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 9:12 am
Scottish Borders Council headquarters.

A new report has revealed that the council's own pension fund has £15,851,755 invested in climate-polluting fossil fuel companies, despite the local authority declaring a climate emergency in September.

The report by Friends of the Earth Scotland found that £1.2 billion was invested in fossil fuel companies by Scottish council pension funds.

Scottish Borders Council administers the pensions of more than 11,000 public employees of bodies including the council’s, Borders College and the Scottish Borders Housing Association.

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Dr Lesley Morrison, chair of Tweedgreen and a member of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, said: “Since Scottish Borders Council have declared a climate emergency, it is extremely disappointing that they currently have more than £15,000,000 of their pension fund invested in fossil fuel companies.

“We urge them to divest as soon as they possibly can. Council leader Shona Haslam has said that the declaration of climate emergency ‘cannot be empty words’.“Divesting from fossil fuels would be a very positive step away from empty words, and a demonstration of their true commitment to addressing the emergency and reducing deaths from pollution.”

It seems there’s another good reason to divest … with fossil fuel company stocks falling in value in recent years, the council lost £1.968m between 2017-20.

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said it had an approved policy to ensure it meets the highest standards, and that it was the first UK local authority pension fund to invest with Morgan Stanley’s Global Sustain Fund.

It has 7.5% (63m) of its total pension fund there, with more planned.

The spokesperson added: “The Pension Fund Committee is now looking at making further changes to our wider investment portfolio to ensure that even more of our £851m of investments are aligned fully with the Paris Accord and that we maximise our contribution to tackling climate change.

"We plan to do so as quickly as possible, working with our advisors, in a way that best protects the interests of contributing fund members, pensioners and their dependants and fully recognises our responsibility to invest sustainably and protect the planet for future generations.”

Scotland is set to host the UN climate conference later this year.Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: “With the world coming to Scotland this Autumn to negotiate action on the climate crisis, pension funds now have a clear deadline for addressing their polluting investments.

"Local councillors have the opportunity to show leadership on climate action by telling fund managers to divest from fossil fuels.

“Many local authorities have declared a climate emergency and have plans in place to bring down emissions from transport, buildings and waste. Pension fund investments are currently working against this progress by continuing to back the ageing fossil fuel economy.“Local authorities have the power and duty to ensure local workers have a pension for their retirement, but also a future worth retiring into. Instead of stubbornly sticking with old systems of investment that worsen climate breakdown, councils should boost investment in renewable energy and social housing.”