A pension fund for Hampshire councils has invested more than £100m into fossil fuels – despite local authorities in the area declaring a climate emergency.
Hampshire Pension Fund has invested a total of £136m into fossil fuels, as of April 2020. Of this, £45.5m has been invested into coal, and £90.5m into oil and gas.
The fund is an investment vehicle for the county council, Portsmouth and Southampton unitary authorities, and 11 borough or district councils across Hampshire.
The news comes to the dismay of environmental campaigners as Britain hosts the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference..
Co-founder of the Final Straw Foundation, Bianca Carr, said it was ‘nonsensical’ to be investing in fossil fuels after declaring a climate emergency.
She said: ‘Local authorities should be setting an example for others to follow, so I find it very strange for them to be investing in fossil fuels.
‘Why they aren’t investing in clean energy – especially when they have declared a climate emergency – is beyond me. It seems counter-intuitive, nonsensical even.
‘In any circumstance, ethically it’s the wrong thing to do, but even more so when COP26 starts.
‘I’m intrigued to hear the justification behind doing it.’
Robert Noyes, an energy economist at campaign group Platform, added: ‘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.’
Local authorities have a duty to provide a retirement income for their employees, and can invest the money in the pension fund to increase the amount in the pot.
A spokeswoman for the Hampshire Pension Fund Panel and Board said: ‘The research quoted shows Hampshire has 1.9 per cent of funds invested in fossil fuel companies, in comparison to the average of 3.1 per cent for English local government pension scheme funds.
‘The fund’s policy is not to disinvest from any particular company or industry, such as fossil fuel producers, but to positively engage with these companies through its investment managers and to influence positive change in this way.
‘The pension fund has taken a number of actions to reduce the carbon footprint of its investments, as well as producing a report under the taskforce for climate-related financial disclosure (TCFD) and publishing an annual RI update, including showing how the carbon footprint of the fund’s investments has reduced over the last year.’
In Hampshire, the county council, Portsmouth and Southampton city councils, and the boroughs of Basingstoke and Deane, East Hampshire, Fareham, Rushmoor, Test Valley and Winchester have all declared climate emergencies.
The information about the investment came via Freedom of Information requests compiled by Friends of the Earth and Platform.