7th July 2020

Given the huge agenda facing councils at the height of the lockdown and pandemic crisis we suspended our campaigning until the beginning of June.   As a matter of courtesy we then wrote to the Chair of the GM Pension Fund, Councillor Brenda Warrington to inform her of that fact and to give her a chance to update us on any progress the Fund has made in its supposed strategy to decarbonise its portfolio.  Given the impact on dividends from fossil fuel companies, and that includes both Shell and BP, the Fund’s biggest holdings (so far as we know since since revamping their website there is now no list of holdings publicly available), we were also anticipating some sign of a rethink.

However, we have not received a reply to our letter – disappointing.  For the record, our letter, sent on 11 June, is copied below.

Dear Brenda

I hope you are well. I’m sure you have a very heavy workload as Council Leader and Chair of GMPF with the impact of the pandemic and its social and economic implications, and wish you well with that work.

In our Fossil Free GM campaign group we appreciate the challenges that pension funds are now facing in light of global economic uncertainty and the resulting dividend cuts announced by Shell and other companies.

Our concerns about the growing risk presented by the Fund’s exposure to fossil fuels are intensifying as the consensus builds for a Green Recovery with rapid decarbonisaton of the economy at its heart.

We note that after a rigorous assessment process, the University of Manchester recently announced its commitment to end investments in fossil fuel companies by 2022, reduce the carbon intensity of the overall investment portfolio by 30% by 2022, and move rapidly to ‘decarbonise’ all investments by 2038.

Taking a slower pace in decarbonising investments is looking even further out-of-step with GMPF’s peers, with the interests of members, employers and Council Tax payers, and with the imperative of a destabilising climate.

Earlier in the year we started to campaign for GMPF to divest from coal mining companies by the end of 2020 as a clear and urgent first step on the road to decarbonising the portfolio.  Having taken a pause while everyone has been adjusting to the many pressures of the pandemic and lockdown, we are now renewing that campaign.

We are however wondering whether there has been any further progress on this agenda at GMPF since Tameside joined the other 9 councils and the GMCA in declaring a climate emergency?

We would also welcome an update on the Fund’s commitment to reallocate £2.3 billion of assets to a low carbon fund, and in particular details of the assets that have been disposed of and the low carbon fund they have been reinvested in.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours,

Maggie Walker

on behalf of the Fossil Free GM campaign