Divestment: A local media campaign

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has commited to divesting its pension fund from fossil fuels after local activists' campaign

Diana Korchien
Tue 8 Nov 2016

On 22 September, the London Borough of Waltham Forest made the monumental commitment to divest its pension fund entirely from fossil fuels, after a year-long campaign by local climate activists, including members of Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party (pictured). The borough is the first in the UK to have taken this important step, which not only demonstrates courageous climate leadership, but also recognises the uncomfortable economic truth - that fossil fuels are rapidly on their way to becoming stranded assets.

As press officer for the local Green Party, I undertook to create as much media noise as possible around the issue following this historic decision. Open letters urging various governmental pension funds to follow Waltham Forest's lead proved to be a winning strategy.

First, an open letter, which was covered in a major piece by the local press, saw our joint coordinators Andrew Johns and Rebecca Tully urging Jas Athwal, Redbridge Council Leader, to follow in neighbouring Waltham Forest's footsteps for the sake of the climate and of economic common sense.

A second opportunity arrived with an 11 October meeting of the Local Government Pensions Investment Forum (LGPIF) to discuss the London CIV (Collective Investment Vehicle), the planned 2018 pooling of all London local authority pension funds. Such a pooling would entirely override Waltham Forest's position, effectively depriving the borough of any decision-making powers on divestment. So, on the eve of the LGPIF, we red o an open letter to Lord Bob Kerslake, Chair of London CIV, again outlining the financial and climate risks, and demanding the creation of a 100 per cent fossil-free fund option. One of our locals printed the letter; we are currently awaiting a response from Lord Kerslake.

Finally, since no one is certain of the extent to which the ultra-secret Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund is mired in tar sands, we rounded o with an open letter to our five constituency MPs. We recommend all party members write to their MPs about divesting the PCPF. Our useful template letter has been emailed to local party press officers for distribution, so get writing now!