Oxfordshire Pension Fund: Divest from Crisis – Invest in our Future!
On 24th March 2023 Fossil Free Oxfordshire marked national Divestment Day by calling on Oxfordshire Local Government Pension Fund to accelerate and broaden the changes it is making in its investments away from oil and gas. Campaigners gathered outside Oxfordshire County Council offices in Oxford to call on the County’s Pension Fund Committee to act more rapidly to divest from climate-damaging investments. They were joined by Oxford Friends of the Earth and XR members to leaflet Council employees and sing. Fossil Free Oxfordshire described where they think the Pension Fund has got to on the path to divestment by acting out an exchange between a Councillor and a Lobbyist, throwing an “earth” between them.
Fossil Free Oxfordshire member Andrew Finney said, “This week United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said that we all have the tools we need to solve climate change challenges – we just have to deploy them, everything, everywhere, all at once. Organisations like the Oxfordshire Local Government Pension Fund, and the larger Brunel Partnership that it’s part of, have the financial levers that can make those changes actually happen.”
Temperatures have already risen to 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a consequence of more than a century of burning fossil fuels, as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use.
A new UN report from climate scientists at the IPCC says that if temperatures are to be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, deep, rapid, and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be needed in all sectors this decade. Emissions need to go down now, and be cut by almost half by 2030, if this goal has any chance of being achieved.
Oxfordshire still invests in the climate crisis
Oxfordshire Councils have declared a climate emergency and say we must reduce our carbon emissions to zero. But they continue to invest in fossil fuel companies through the Oxfordshire Local Government Pension Fund. This still has a £20 million investment in Shell and investments in other fossil fuel companies. Shell continues to explore for and develop new fossil fuel reserves, and its business plan is not consistent with ensuring global heating is limited to 1.5°C.
Scheme members want divestment
Members of the pension scheme have been asking for more progress on divestment from fossil fuels. Groups like Fossil Free Oxfordshire have also been campaigning on this for a number of years.
Signs of progress
The Oxfordshire scheme has made some progress in the last few years including:
● Targeting a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its investment portfolio of 7% each year
BUT This doesn’t include the emissions from fossil fuel products like petrol for cars or gas for central heating
● Shifting the majority of its passive equity investments to a Paris Aligned fund
BUT This still left significant funds in UK equities that included fossil fuel companies like Shell
● Recently deciding to investigate moving its UK Equities investment to a UK Paris Aligned fund which would trigger the divestment of most of its holding in Shell
BUT This isn’t fast or far enough to address the scale of the crisis
We are watching the Oxfordshire Pension Fund
The Pension Fund Committee need to:
● move fast and start the process of shifting the current UK equities investment; and
● examine the rest of the Oxfordshire portfolio with a view of reducing or eliminating remaining investment in fossil fuel companies.
How to Support the Fossil Free Oxfordshire divestment campaign
Please support the Fossil Free Oxfordshire campaign by emailing your local county councillor and asking them to lobby the pension fund committee to adopt a Paris Aligned fund for UK Equities. You can find who local county councillor is at https://www.writetothem.com/.