5th September 2018

A national report released on Monday revealed that Greater Manchester’s councils, led by Tameside Council, are investing £1 billion in fracking companies through their management of the local authority pension fund [1].

The news comes as the fracking industry is poised to drill for gas for the first time in seven years in the UK. Companies such as Shell, BP and Statoil are some of the companies that Greater Manchester Pension Fund have large investments in.

These companies are extensively involved in controversial fracking projects globally. For instance both Shell and BP are involved in a massive fracking operation in Argentina where they are  accused of violating the rights of local communities, polluting water supplies and destroying agricultural livelihoods.

Public support for fracking is consistently low in the UK [2] and a 2014 poll run by the Manchester Evening News found that 73% of their readership opposed fracking. These companies know this, and only frack abroad. This hypocrisy, and the clear evidence that fracking will will add more greenhouse gases and accelerate climate change means that campaigners are asking public authorities to consider whether these investments are really in the best interests of the pensioners and taxpayers in their area.[3]

Chris Smith, spokesperson for Fossil Free Greater Manchester, said:

“It’s shocking to see that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund is investing almost a billion pounds in fracking. That’s almost twice the amount of any other council-run fund. Fracking threatens communities, destroys local landscapes, and fuels climate change across the globe. As this industry tries to get a foothold in the UK, it’s crucial that our councils – and Tameside Council in particular – take a clear stand against fracking and divest from the companies responsible.”

Sakina Sheikh, Divestment Campaigner with Platform added:

“The devastating fires and record temperatures this summer have brought the impacts of climate change home. Neither local communities or our climate can afford for the fracking industry to win. Our councils are providing everyday support to the frackers, it’s time to stop. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.”

The data is released by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth. It ranks council-run pension funds by their investments in companies involved in fracking.  This confirms analysis by Fossil Free Greater Manchester, earlier this year.  The data release was covered by the Financial Times: Greater Manchester Pension Fund declined to comment [6]. There was also coverage in the Guardian, including a powerful piece by Preston council leader, Matthew Brown, who made the point that Pension Funds would do better to invest the money in renewables and the local economy [7].

Full divestment commitments have so far been made by two UK council pension funds, with a further five making partial commitments [4]. The campaign to divest local council pensions has received backing from Unison and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) [5].

(updated from the version that appeared on Manchester Friends of the Earth website, Monday, 3 September, 2018).

[1] To view the full national data set and for more information, visit: gofossilfree.org/uk/divest-fracking

[2] See information in recent Drill or Drop article: https://drillordrop.com/2018/08/16/question-on-attitudes-to-fracking-dropped-from-government-survey/

[3] See Drill or Drop for summary of recent council decisions on onshore drilling applications: https://drillordrop.com/rig-watch/

[4] Waltham Forest and Southwark Council Pension Funds have committed to phase out all fossil fuel investments from their portfolio. To see the full list of global divestment commitments, visit: gofossilfree.org/commitments

[5] Read more on Unison’s decision on Platform’s blog. See Fossil Free UK ‘a historic climate justice motion has been passed unanimously at the 2017 Trade Union Congress backing divestment, energy democracy and a just climate transition‘ for details of the 2017 TUC motion.

[6] Financial Times article: https://www.ft.com/content/fdbfe85a-609f-3ec5-b20e-12dc873e6f74

[7] Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/04/councils-investing-fracking-industry-local-authorities-green-pensions