Kent County Council under fire for £267m pension fund investment in 'morally bankrupt' fossil fuels
PUBLISHED: 09:21 09 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:21 09 November 2017
County Hall has defended the decision, insisting it is legal, ethical and generates a good return
A decision to invest £267m of Kent County Council workers’ pensions in “morally bankrupt” fossil fuels has been slammed by an MEP.
The figure – according to research from green campaign groups 350.org, Platform, Energy Democracy Project, and Friends of the Earth – represents around three per cent of KCC’s total pension pot investments.
The money is that from local authority workers who pay into its pension fund and which, in turn, are invested in various industries with a view to generating a return.
However, campaigners are concerned at the investment in coal, oil and gas companies which they say is fuelling dangerous climate change.
Green MEP for the south east Keith Taylor said: “It’s shocking to see such huge sums of Kent taxpayers’ money pumped into climate destructive, financially risky and, frankly, morally bankrupt industries.
“At a time when the renewable energy industry is one of the fastest growing in the world it makes no sense for Kent County Council to still be investing in fossil fuels.
“The county is already benefitting from renewable energy projects that would no doubt welcome more investment.
“Representatives from across the globe are in Germany right now at COP23 [a climate change summit] to put together an effective plan to implement the Paris Agreement which the UK government signed up to two years ago.
“The accord commits Britain and every other country in the world - apart from America - to taking real action to tackle climate change.
“At a time when the Conservative government has already admitted the UK is on course to miss its vital climate targets, it is unforgivable that the Tory-run KCC is also burying its head in the sand when it comes to the climate crisis and our commitments under the Paris Agreement.
“Climate change isn’t a shadowy spectre looming on some distant horizon - it is happening now. The need for bold action has never been more urgent.
“Just 100 multinational fossil fuel companies are responsible for more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, the time for our councils to cut their ties with the dirty industries fuelling climate change is long overdue.”
George Guivalu Nacewa, Fiji Climate Warrior attending the COP23 talks in Bonn which are being presided over by the Fijian prime minister, added: “In the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not a debate, it is our reality. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We no longer have time to talk. Now is the time to act.”
However, KCC’s cabinet member for finance, John Simmonds, defended County Hall’s decision.
“We continue to meet our responsibility of ensuring that investments are legal and ethical, while also providing the best level of return possible to avoid any pension shortfall needing to be made up by Kent’s council taxpayers,” he said.
“The council’s pension fund is managed independently from the council itself by external investment managers who are given the responsibility of getting the best return for organisations and individuals – including the pension holders and their families – whom KCC represents.
“Beyond our environmental, social and governance policy, pensions are overseen by the superannuation fund committee consisting of county councillors, representatives of other Kent councils, trade unions, employees and pensioners.
“Fossil fuel company shares have been among the best investment by way of return but they also represents a small proportion of the overall investments - three per cent - made by KCC’s pension fund.”