Council pension funds should be going to support clean fossil-free energy which will secure a good return for members and help tackle climate change.
Councils across the UK invest over nine billion pounds in fracking companies through council pension funds, according to a new report.
The Greater Manchester Pension Fund invests the largest amount in the global fracking industry, almost £1 billion. This is nearly double the amount of the next highest pension fund, West Yorkshire, with just over half a billion.
The councils with the highest percentage of their pension funds invested in fracking are Dumfries and Galloway, Greater Manchester and the London Borough of Merton, each with about 6-7 percent of the total fund invested in fracking companies.
Lack of support
The news comes as the fracking industry is poised to drill for gas for the first time in seven years in the UK.
With councils ploughing billions into fracking companies, questions are being asked as to why councils are investing in this industry when UK public support for fracking is consistently low.
Many councils have voted against fracking developments in their areas, but council-run funds remain invested in the industry.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fracking has effectively halted, but Councils there still oversee pension funds investing heavily in fracking companies.
The companies that councils are investing in include BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips. These companies are fracking in places like Argentina, Canada and Australia. BP, one of the companies involved, does not frack in the UK to avoid ‘the wrong type of attention’ but has huge fracking operations abroad.
Fuelling climate change
Matthew Brown, leader of Preston Council. commented: “It’s disappointing to see local authority pension funds being invested in the fracking industry. Fracking destroys local landscapes, threatens communities and fuels climate change across the globe.
"Council pension funds should be going to support clean fossil-free energy which will secure a good return for members and help tackle climate change."
Sakina Sheikh, divestment campaigner with Platform commented: “The devastating fires and record temperatures this summer have brought the impacts of climate change home. Neither local communities nor our climate can afford for the fracking industry to win.
"Our councils are providing everyday support to the frackers, it’s time to stop. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels."
Deirdre Duff, divestment campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “UK councils should know better than to invest in fracking companies. These companies are inflicting their fracking operations on communities around the world, and this can have significant impacts.”
“Many UK councils have rightly opposed fracking in their own area – however it is shocking that they still support the global fracking industry. We should remember too that the climate change caused by fracking will affect us all, no matter where the fracking is conducted."
The data is released by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth. It ranks council-run pension funds by their investments in companies involved in fracking.
Full divestment commitments have so far been made by two UK council pension funds, with a further five making partial commitments. The campaign to divest local council pensions has received backing from Unison and the TUC.
Across the world 905 institutions, with total investments valued at $6.24 trillion USD, have committed to divest from fossil fuels.
Marianne Brooker is a contributing editor for The Ecologist. This story is based on a press release from Fossil Free UK.