West Yorkshire Pension Fund must ditch fossil fuel investments

Councillor Kevin Warnes says divesting is one of the best ways Bradford Council could help tackle the climate emergency, and is a more ethically and financially sensible choice in light of COP26.

A yellow sign on a lamppost stating 'Break Free from Fossil Fuels'

Image: Eelco Böhtlingk

Green World

Green Councillor Kevin Warnes has called on Bradford District Council to push the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels, ahead of the COP26 summit this November.

Bradford Green Party revealed that they had targeted the West Yorkshire Pension Fund as it was found to be one of the UK’s largest local authority investors in coal, oil, and gas, with over £504 million of its £13.2 billion fund invested in fossil fuel industries. 

With the UK hosting COP26 in Glasgow in just a few months’ time, they argue this is the perfect time to divest from fossil fuels, and show that the country is serious about climate action.

The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is an international summit aimed at tackling climate change. This year’s summit is set to build on the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was agreed upon at COP21.

After the UK declared 2020 the ‘Year of Climate Action’, many local parties have been holding this statement to account and demanding real implementation.

Cllr Kevin Warnes said: “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.”

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

In particular, shares in large corporations such as Shell and BP have decreased by over half in the past five years, and are set to fall rapidly as divestment continues.

According to Fossil Free West Yorkshire Pension Fund, nearly 500 organisations worldwide have committed to divest from fossil fuels. 

In the UK these include 13 universities, the UK Environment Agency, and locally, the South Yorkshire Pension Fund.

Cllr Warnes adds: “Bradford Council is a major player in the management of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, which it administers 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.