COP26: Tyne and Wear pension invested £238 million in fossil fuels, despite climate emergency pledge

Data has been released ahead of the COP26 conference
New data has been released (Image: Shutterstock)New data has been released (Image: Shutterstock)
New data has been released (Image: Shutterstock)

As of April 2020, £238 million of the Tyne and Wear Pension fund had been invested into fossil fuels.

New data has been uncovered by environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Platform ahead of the United Nationa COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this November.

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Local authorities across the UK invested nearly £10 billion in fossil fuels through pension funds last year.

Of the Tyne and Wear pension fund, £84 million was invested into coal and £153 million into oil and gas.

Robert Noyes, an energy economist at campaign group Platform and a coordinator of pressure group UK Divest said: “As we approach the UN climate talks in Glasgow this November, local councils have a simple choice.

“They can pay polluters to wreck the planet, or they can play their part in the global climate effort by ending their fossil fuel investments.

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“While their net-zero adverts are appealing, not a single fossil fuel company has implemented measures to comply with the 2015 UN Paris Agreement, while in 2020, on average these companies spent just 1% of their annual capital expenditure on clean energy.

“There is no change coming from continued engagement, there is only delay.

“With support for climate action at an all-time high, and the financial benefits of fossil fuel funding increasingly unclear - the choice is as easy as it is simple: divest from fossil fuels, join the $14.5tn coalition of climate leaders in drawing a line, and invest in a future worth retiring into.”


A spokesperson for the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund responded: “The Pensions Committee has a fiduciary duty to both employers and members to seek an appropriate financial return for the level of risk that is taken.

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"The Pension Fund recognises that climate change is a significant financial risk and actively engages with the companies in which it invests to help reduce carbon emissions.

"The Fund has used its votes at company AGM’s to promote climate change issues and has collaborated with other like-minded investors to support climate change resolutions.

“The Committee has recently undertaken a carbon footprint of the Fund’s investments and this shows that carbon emissions intensity has fallen by nearly 30% from 2010 and by 8% over the last 2 years. Further reductions will be targeted going forward alongside the setting of a net-zero carbon target.

“One reason for the recent reduction in emissions is that last year the Fund invested £650m into the Future World Index Equity Funds, as part of its ongoing commitment to generating sustainable long-term returns in a responsible manner. This range of funds invests more in companies that score well against environmental, social and governance criteria including companies, which are less carbon-intensive or earn green revenues.”

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South Tyneside Council, which heads up the Tyne and Wear pension fund, have reaffirmed their commitments to tackling climate change in light of the data.

In July 2019 the Council declared a council emergency and committed to making the Council carbon neutral by 2030.

The Council also set a three-year target to lower carbon emissions by 4,285 by March 2023.

Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council said: “The council has already made significant progress with renewal energy, bringing forward cutting-edge green technology to meet energy supply demands with major schemes in Hebburn and Jarrow.

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“The council also secured funding from Government to fund energy improvement and decarbonisation schemes across various Council buildings, including schools, leisure facilities and civic buildings as well as enabling works on a further district heating scheme at Holborn, South Shields, which is now on site.

“It is important to note that the emphasis in our Sustainable South Tyneside Strategy is what the Council can do to reduce its own emissions - and for good reason. The role of local authorities remains limited – whilst well placed to drive and influence emission reductions in communities through the services councils deliver, role of social landlord, community leaders and regulatory and strategic functions - what is needed to make a universal impact is policy change, both nationally and internationally, along with financial support from Central Government to support the delivery of a carbon-neutral future.”

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