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Councillor calls for West Yorkshire Pension Fund to drop “dirty” investments before global climate summit

A Green Party councillor has called on Bradford Councillors to push the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to ditch fossil fuel investments before the UK hosts a global climate summit later this year.

Councillor Kevin Warnes speaking at a full council meeting at Bradford City Hall council chamberCouncillor Kevin Warnes (Green, Shipley Ward) has written to the Bradford District Councillors who sit on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund Joint Advisory Group, asking them to review the Fund’s investments in fossil fuel linked industries.

According to UK Divest, the West Yorkshire Pension Fund is valued at around £13.2 billion, with around £504 million invested in industries linked to coal, oil and gas. This makes it one of the largest local authority investors in those industries in the UK.

Councillor Kevin Warnes said, “The UK is hosting the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in November. Now is the time for the West Yorkshire Pension Fund - one of the largest local authority funds in the country – to divest its fossil fuel holdings.

“All the local authorities in West Yorkshire, including Bradford, have declared a “climate emergency” - and emergencies require action! We can already see the catastrophic effects of climate breakdown in the UK and across the planet and these are becoming more severe as each year passes.

“On top of our environmental concerns, holding fossil fuels shares is a growing financial risk. Firms dependent on the fossil fuel industry are no longer ‘good’ investments. Back in 2019, former Chief of the Bank of England Mark Carney called on pension funds to rethink investing in fossil fuels. It is clear that this would be a sensible decision, both ethically and financially.”

The value of many shares linked to the fossil fuel industry have decreased significantly in recent years. The share price of Royal Dutch Shell and BP, for example, have more than halved in the last five years.

Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund have highlighted, nearly 500 organisations worldwide have committed to divest from fossil fuels. These number over 60 in the UK alone – including 13 universities, the UK Environment Agency, the British Medical Association and the South Yorkshire Pension Fund.

This call comes as Calderdale Council has formally requested for that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund divest from the fossil fuel sector.

Councillor Warnes adds, “Bradford Council is a major player in the management of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, which it administers it on behalf of the other member organisations.

“But our senior Labour and Conservative councillors have consistently ignored calls from environmental groups for the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to transfer its fossil fuel investments into the clean energy sector.

“At the end of the day, if we are serious about tackling the climate emergency, divestment is one of the best ways Bradford Council could help reduce our region’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.