Fossil Free Oxfordshire, a climate change lobby group based in Oxford, has successfully influenced the county’s £2.5bn Local Government Pension Scheme to make critical changes to their investment strategy in response to the climate emergency. The Pension Fund Committee has agreed to align the Fund’s investments with the Paris Agreement, i.e. a limit of 1.5°C in global temperatures and net zero carbon emissions by 2050; they have also agreed to a target of 7.6% reductions in the Fund’s greenhouse gas emissions year on year. The Scheme will initially switch 5% of their assets into low carbon funds, a move described by the Independent Financial Advisor as a ‘first step,’ with the implication that more will follow. The new Climate Change Policy was signed off in June this year following seven years’ protesting, lobbying and educating by Fossil Free Oxfordshire (FFO), who persuaded the members of the Pension Fund Committee to recognise the climate crisis and contribute to the changes necessary to mitigate the devastating impacts that will follow unless swift action is taken. FFO continues to argue that the Pension Fund should divest from fossil fuels immediately, but is pleased to see that the Pension Fund has taken some small steps towards divestment and will continue to ensure it stays on a path to move away from fossil fuel investment with a clear timetable.
The Local Government Pension Scheme has 225 employers and approximately 64,000 members from all areas of council run activities including school teachers, library workers, social workers, public health staff, fire-fighters, waste disposal staff and many others.
Great strides were made at a climate change workshop organised by Council officers and the Committee in November 2019. A wide spectrum of stakeholders were represented, to FFO were asked to submit nominations for presenters. Following this session FFO were invited to join a newly formed Working Group to turn the key points from the workshop into a new Climate Change Policy for the Scheme; this resulted in the changes that the Fund Committee has now agreed to implement. FFO continues to be part of the Working Group and is ensuring that the targets are met, while continuing to argue for an acceleration in fossil fuel divestment beyond the measures already agreed.
It is estimated globally that up to $14.6trillion worth of funds have divested from fossil fuel funds and companies (https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/) by a wide-ranging group of organisations including faith-based organisations, philanthropic foundations, educational institutions, governments and many other large pension funds. Recently the UK’s biggest pension fund, the government-backed National Employment Savings Trust (Nest) scheme, with nine million members, agreed to start divesting from fossil fuels by banning investments in any companies involved in coal mining, oil from tar sands and arctic drilling and moving £5.5bn into “climate aware” investments.
FFO has been active for over five years and it is the dedication of a few hard-working members that has resulted in this breakthrough in Oxfordshire. Founded by Al Chisholm, a local resident living in Rose Hill, the group comprises members from around the county with wide-ranging expertise including technical, campaigning, finance and negotiating skills. If you would like to join the group -and we are especially looking for those with investment experience and social media skills at present – please contact us at fossilfreeoxon@gmail.