UNISON launches campaign to divest pensions from carbon

Guide will help members of local government pension schemes push for changes in the investment of their funds

A campaign to encourage local government pension funds to divest from carbon will be launched today (Wednesday) by UNISON.

UNISON’s step-by-step guide is designed to help members of local government pension schemes push for changes in the investment of their funds. The aim is to explore alternative investment opportunities, allowing schemes to sell their shares and bonds in fossil fuels and to go carbon-free.

Chair of UNISON’s policy committee James Anthony said: “Pensions are meant to safeguard our future, but that future is threatened by the burning of carbon in fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

“This campaign empowers people to hold their pension funds to account. If you contribute to a pension then it’s your money that’s being invested, and so it’s only right that you should have a say in where it’s invested.”

Figures published last year revealed that £16 billion was invested in the fossil fuel industry by local government pension funds*. At its annual conference last year, UNISON made the decision to campaign for divestment from these companies because of the devastating consequences that a changing climate will have on people, societies and ecosystems.

In addition to the threat of climate change, the UNISON campaign highlights other reasons why continued investment in carbon threatens the value of pension funds. For example, new government regulations for fossil fuels have raised the costs of high-polluting industries and reduced their investment appeal. Equally, emerging clean and green technology has created new and lucrative business opportunities for funds.

With five million members of local government pension schemes, and over 13,000 different employers paying into them, UNISON believes its campaign will resonate with a wide audience and is in a strong position to influence the pensions agenda.

Notes to editors:
– *Councils: Fuelling the Fire report from 350.org, Community Reinvest, Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform. The calculation is based on investments in the top 100 oil and gas and top 100 coal companies according to the Carbon Underground 200 index 2016.
Local Government Pension Funds – Divest From Carbon Campaign: A UNISON Guide is available here. It was written in collaboration with ShareAction – a registered charity that promotes responsible investment practices by pension providers and fund managers.

UNISON media contacts:
Clare Santry T: 0207 121 5546 M: 07944 191479 E: c.santry@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad T: 0207 121 5255 M:07908 377215 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk