At this week’s meeting of the Oxfordshire County Council we think there’s been a major shift in the attitude to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues and investment amongst the Councillors.
We knew that a Lib Dem Cllr, Bob Johnston, was putting a motion to the full Council today about ESG issues and Council investments. He reports to the PFC from the Pension Board, so we’ve seen a lot of each other over the last few years at PFC meetings! One of our supporters is his constituent and went to lobby him – and found out about the motion.
So we decided to do what we could to support the motion. We lobbied other Councillors who we thought would be supportive – Labour Councillors – and Andrew Finney organised giving a public address at the Council meeting, before the motion was proposed.
One of the Labour Councillor asked to support the motion told us before the meeting:
“Absolutely it’ll have my full support and that of the County Labour Group. I think unfortunately it may be voted down by the Conservatives but hopefully I’ll be proved wrong!”
Andrew Finney gave a 5 minute public address to the Council for Fossil Free Oxfordshire in which he spelled out some pertinent information:
- Why it was important that the Council’s actions started to reflect the new ESG statement adopted last March that recognised risk due to climate change
- That the Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, has told the Commons environmental and audit committee this month that many trustees are failing to fulfil their duty to consider climate risk
- Why continuing to invest £20 million directly in Shell is a mistake and why it is a fallacious argument (put to us by the Pension Fund Committee in the past) that investing in Shell is a way of supporting renewables
- That Lancashire County Council Pension Fund invested £12 million in the Westmill Solar Farm in Oxfordshire in 2013
Andrew Finney urged the Council to ask the Pension Fund Committee to commit to a fossil free strategy as it enters the new Brunel Partnership and select low carbon options.
Cllr Bob Johnson’s motion was:
“Investment, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are now rising rapidly up the Agenda. This is evidenced, for example by the recent decision of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund to cease investment in oil and gas. The Oxfordshire Local Pension Fund has an obligation to review its investment strategy, when the present 3-year framework expires. Council therefore calls upon the Pension Committee to incorporate the latest and best advice available on ESG matters when reviewing its policies and drawing up the next 3-year investment strategy.”
The big news is that the motion got passed unanimously – of 60 Cllrs present, 59 Yes, 1 Abstention. That’s a lot of Tory Cllrs deciding to take ESG issues seriously.
At the PFC June meeting Cllrs will review ESG issues and investment strategy, so we’re very hopeful for some real movement – from Conservative Cllrs!