7th June 2021

PRESS RELEASE

Immediate release – 7.6.21

from: Fossil Free Greater Manchester campaign group – contact details below.

Despite the climate emergency, GM Pension Fund invested more in oil, gas and coal last year

Campaign group Fossil Free Greater Manchester (FFGM) has revealed that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) increased its holdings in fossil fuels last year. GMPF has a public  commitment to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the campaign group, which has called for them to rapidly reduce holdings in fossil fuel companies to achieve this aim, is shocked to see the increase.

The group’s analysis of the pension fund’s recently released 2020 Annual Report reveals that holdings in oil, gas and coal increased between March 2019 and March 2020!  Worse still, GMPF has consistently claimed that its investments in oil, gas and coal bring financial benefit to members but in 2020 its investment  performance was below average for local government pension schemes.

Fossil Free Greater Manchester (FFGM) analysed the holdings at 31 March, 2020 versus 31 March 2019 and concluded that holdings in the oil and gas giants Shell and BP , went up by 27.3% and 18.6%, respectively and Glencore, a commodity trading and mining company whose operations include coal, increased by 42.3%. This contrasts with a claim made by the Fund’s chair, Tameside leader, councillor Brenda Warrington, in the same 2020 Annual Report that GMPF had taken steps to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Fossil Free GM member, Maggie Walker,  said

“GMPF’s claims that their pensioners are enjoying higher returns because of their investments in fossil fuels, are not credible.  The climate emergency demands a plan for rapid divestment from companies that continue to extract unnecessary and dangerous fossil fuels.”

GMPF have announced a transfer of some investments from “passive” equity funds to a low carbon fund, but campaigners point out that this ignores the direct holdings in fossil fuel companies which are far bigger, and increasing. Maggie said:

“GMPF implies that this is a divestment of £2.5 billion. Yet as we have shown, it is only worth approximately £100 million of actual divestment from fossil fuel stocks. This is small in comparison with the Fund’s £860 million of direct shareholdings in oil, gas and coal mining companies.”

 The 2020 Annual Report also reveals that the fund performed badly against other Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) in 2019-20, making a loss of 6.6% compared with the average of 4.8% a continuation of below average performance over the  last 15 years.

FFGM point out that other experts such as Mark Carney when Governor of the Bank of England have also advised that holding shares in oil and gas companies is risky. PIRC (Pensions and Investment Research Consultants) concluded that ‘UK equities performed worse than their overseas peers, in part because of the high exposure to oil and gas…’. and the historically cautious International Energy Agency now says that there is no justification for new investment in fossil fuel extraction.

Of the top 20 companies in GMPF’s investment portfolio, five are gas or oil companies. The two biggest are Royal Dutch Shell (£244M) and BP (£235M). GMPF has previously  claimed that its investments in fossil fuels raised an extra £400m but this is also disputed by the campaigners as it is based on a  very selective choice of dates.

Contacts  [If reading on the website please contact via our gmail address: fossilfreegm[AT]gmail.com ]

www.fossilfreegm.org.uk

Notes for editors

GMPF is administered by Tameside Council on behalf of the 10 Greater Manchester councils and many other public and voluntary sector employers. Research by the NGO Platform London, published in February, indicated that GMPF was the biggest investor in fossil fuels of any Local Government Pension Scheme  in the country. It has the highest proportion of holdings in oil, gas and coal companies of any UK local government pension scheme in England, which Fossil Free Greater Manchester (FFGM) estimated at 6.7% in March 2020.

Fossil Free Greater Manchester (FFGM) has been calling on GMPF to divest from fossil fuels for several years. In March it was joined by six GM councils (Bury, Manchester, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport and Wigan), who called for stronger climate action, reminding the Fund that several UK local government pension funds, along with high profile councils such as New York,have already committed to fully divesting from fossil fuels. The joint press release went further and called on GMPF to ‘move decisively away from its current investment in fossil fuels.’

Fossil Free Greater Manchester (FFGM) analysts looked at the GMPF’s holdings as of 31 March 2020 to identify the total value of shares the Fund held in individual fossil fuel companies. They calculated the number of shares by dividing this total, for each company, by the price of one share. They then repeated the same exercise with the GMPF’s holdings as of 31 March 2019 to find out whether investments had increased or decreased.

Holdings in Glencore, a commodity trading and mining company, went from 49,877,281 shares in 2019 to 70,972,447 in 2020, representing a 42.3% increase. Holdings in BP, the oil and gas giant, went from 57,607,529 shares in 2019 to 68,302,448 in 2020, representing a 18.6% increase. Finally, mining company Anglo American holdings went from 5,553,132 shares in 2019 to 6,360,400 in 2020, representing a 14.5% increase.

GMPF’s declining investment performance (from the 2020 Annual Report):
Extract from GMPF 2020 Annual Report page 23