In 2019, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) announced that “fighting the climate crisis is one of our highest priorities”. The Fund also announced that it will transfer some of its funds from a tracker fund to a low-carbon fund.  Excellent news. Except that, so far, no transfer. The Fund is a bit slow to the fight.
Unfortunately, time is not on our side.
So, how about a simple, very urgent first step to get us started? Ditch coal.
Fossil Free Greater Manchester calls on GMPF to remove all investments in coal mining companies by the end of 2020.
GMPF currently holds large investments in companies involved in the coal industry: £159 million in Glencore, £138 million in Rio Tinto, £114 million in Anglo American.  Yet, coal is the dirtiest, most dangerous fossil fuel. It is the single biggest contributor to the climate emergency. 
Taking funds out of the coal industry is the most important move that financial institutions can, and have, to make to limit the destruction of our climate. The 2018 IPCC report states that to keep within 1.5°C, we must decrease the use of coal for energy generation by 78% by 2030.  This means divesting from the coal industry now. There is no time to lose.
In the face of increasing ecological breakdown, hundreds of companies are still planning to expand their coal operations.  Glencore, one of GMPF’s major holdings and the world’s 8th largest coal producer, agreed to cap its annual coal production at 150 million tons.  This is greenwash. 150 million tons would be an increase on the 129 million tons of coal that Glencore produced in 2018. Pension funds, banks and insurers cannot hope to ‘engage’ with the coal industry, they must divest.
The Bank of England has been warning insurers who are investing in fossil fuel companies  that:
- ‘their fossil fuel assets could be stranded
- they could be held liable for damages linked to their investments
- they could see their market diminish, and
- their payouts could rise’.
GMPF needs to play catch up.
In 2017, Zurich the world’s seventh biggest insurer, announced that it was pulling out of coal to keep in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.  In 2018, Lloyds of London also announced that it would stop investing in coal companies.  Zurich and Lloyds join a list of other large European insurance companies, including Aviva, Allianz, Axa, Legal & General, SCOR and Swiss Re that have been moving out of coal. 
Banks are also pulling out of the coal industry. The Financial Times reports that BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and the Royal Bank of Scotland are not funding new coal-fired power stations.  Mark Lewis, head of climate change research at BNP Paribas said “Whether we have any chance of restricting [a temperature rise] to below 2C really depends on how quickly we get out of coal,”. BNP Paribas also stated that investing in coal is financially risky as coal is becoming “increasingly uncompetitive as a fuel for power generation”. 
Any financial institution that is committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement has to divest from coal. This is the only defensible course of action. 
So, we urge GMPF to get out of coal immediately. There are many, much better investments to be made instead. Let’s make ditching coal the Fund’s first step in the fight against the climate crisis.
- GMPF Annual Report 2019: https://www.gmpf.org.uk/documents/annualreport/2019.pdf
- GMPF Holdings: https://www.gmpf.org.uk/investments/holdings.htm
- Coal Exit: https://coalexit.org/
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/15/growing-number-of-global-insurance-firms-divesting-from-fossil-fuels
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/21/lloyds-of-london-to-divest-from-coal-over-climate-change
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/27/coal-insurer-axa-to-divest-from-fossil-fuel-investments-underwriting
- The Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/57d71893-5ae6-3a14-80ae-b82fdfbd1729