Updated post: 10 Sept., 2020
For approximately a year now, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund has been trumpeting its initiative to move some £2.4 Billion of its money from a tracker fund to a “low carbon” fund. It has even claimed that this is the “biggest divestment by any council pension scheme in the UK” (e.g. GMPF July meeting – livestream, https://tinyurl.com/y2f6ylhz approx 7 minutes in). No published information appears to be available for this claim to be substantiated.
It would indeed be good if this were so. But how can we evaluate the claim when no information has been provided about just what holdings the Fund has sold, nor about what investments they have made with the money realised.
We have politely asked for this information in correspondence to the Fund but they appear to have cut off communication with us after the demonstration at last year’s AGM where some campaigners (Not part of FFGM) painted a slogan on the Fund’s building. So in the absence of any information we made a Freedom of Information Act request to Tameside council (the managing authority for the Fund) for information about their low carbon initiative.
As of today, the council has not responded. They were legally obliged to respond by yesterday, 8th September. We have sent a reminder and given the pressures that councils are under, we are not complaining to the Information Commissioner, yet. Update: the council responded on 10th Sept, 2 days late. Link to their response is here. We’ll look at it carefully and share our perspective on it shortly.
You really would think that if the Fund’s initiative is what they claim it to be, they would be furnishing details of it.
We do know that some “low carbon tracker funds” have as much as 7% fossil fuel holdings. We also estimate that the average proportion of fossil fuel holdings in the tracker funds in GMPF’s portfolio as of 31 March 2019 was around that level: however, these funds vary in composition. The devil really is in the detail but the detail has not been revealed.
Meanwhile, don’t forget that the Fund’s direct investments in fossil fuel companies (nearly £1.5 Bn, as of the last data release, 31/3/2019) dwarf any likely divestment via transfer to a “low carbon” fund. Such a divestment would be only a few percent of the quoted £2.4 Bn. We estimate that at most this would be something like a twentieth of that quoted figure. We won’t mind if the Fund can prove us wrong!
We await the details we’ve asked for with interest, but the real priority is to sell the Fund’s enormous holdings of shares in fossil fuels companies such as BP and Shell.