Individuals and Groups Condemn Lack of Local Democracy
The twenty individuals and groups who applied to speak at the next Oxfordshire Pension Fund Committee meeting are angered by the county’s refusal to let them speak at the meeting.
“The committee’s response to warnings about the risks of investing in fossil fuels has been completely inadequate” said Al Chisholm, Fossil Free Oxfordshire. “Refusing to let anyone address the committee is evidence that, once again, they prefer to kick the issue into the long grass. Written representations, like all our previous communications, will simply be ignored. The economic risks relating to climate change are developing almost daily and citizens ought to be able to make a timely representation on this issue.”
The Pension Fund Committee will be discussing their Environmental and Social Governance Policy at their meeting on 10th March, but the draft includes no mention of climate change. The Government has said councils must take climate risk into account and consult pension scheme members. Oxfordshire has not done this.
An unprecedented number of local individuals and groups submitted requests to address the pension committee, headed by Councillor Stewart Lilly. They plan to call for the long-overdue divestment from fossil fuels, following the lead of many other institutions, including Brookes Oxford Brookes University and Oxford City Council.
“The issue of where local government pensions are invested is one that affects all of us,” said Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) member Jill Green. “We have important facts to present. In a democracy, our representatives should make it possible for us to speak up!”
The reorganization of local government pension funds into eight groups across the UK is the perfect time for Oxfordshire County Council to pull over £55 million of employee funds out of unstable fossil fuel investments. This transition presents Oxfordshire with a unique opportunity to divest. The county pension fund should no longer invest in companies that are driving climate change. Instead, it should be invested more ethically, sustainably, and profitably.
“We’ve witnessed the hottest years on record, unstable weather incidents – from heavy rains and floods in Oxfordshire to hurricanes and droughts elsewhere – sea levels are rising, even the Arctic and Antarctic are melting,” said Andrew Finney, PhD, “What more proof that we are facing a growing climate crisis does the county pension fund committee need?”
To add to this, oil and gas investments have been underperforming in recent years.
“Responsible stewardship of the money that so many local government employees will depend on during their retirement years requires divestment from fossil fuels,” Peter Wallis, LGPS member and council employee. “It’s becoming as simple and obvious as that!”